The church is a community of those who have already been forgiven by Jesus Christ, and those who pass on that forgiveness to those who have offended them. In other words Christians take the words of the “Our Father” very seriously.
Being able to receive forgiveness and then to pass it on to someone else, even on a normal level of personal healing, is indeed a very big deal. Not everyone can do it. This is not a simple human process. It is actually a grace from God. It is in the nature of God. In order to be able to forgive, our heart must be empty of pride, hatred and revenge. It is only when we cleanse ourselves of these sins, that our soul can welcome God into us. It’s so we can then be able to forgive others.
Not being able to forgive is a very dangerous and destructive thing. It can actually destroy us and our ability to live in peace and love. St Paul tells us that we should never let the sun set on our anger. Each day and each night we pray that we can forgive those who offend us.
In our own family, with our children, our community, parish, our organization and at work, there are very many occasions in which we might feel that we were offended. Some have lived through war, political oppression and crime. All that can be overwhelming, but yet God tells us all, we must find a way to be merciful and to forgive. We cannot be a family, community, or a church if we do not forgive one another.
Many people have already forgiven us. It actually is very hard to forgive people.
We cannot live with the philosophy that it’s “an eye for an eye”!
Forgiveness is actually a concept that Jesus brought into the world. It was not easy for his disciples to understand. It is one of the main reasons He ended up on the cross.
It is our baptism, our membership in the Body of Christ that gives us the strength to forgive. It always should start with us. It is not the other person which must start, even though we often say, “They have to apologize first”.
If we really look around we will notice that in fact many people are already good to us. We have already received much from God, our parents, our friends and even strangers. Many people have already forgiven us. It actually is very hard to forgive people.
Forgiveness does not come to us without prayer. We need God’s grace in order to be able to forgive. Our first prayer is for those who have hurt us. We pray that they may change, but we must first pray that we can change ourselves.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM