Forgive Offences

13. A Moment for Mercy - Forgive Offences

Could it be that forgiving offences is put towards the end of the list of the works of mercy because it is one of the hardest?

Forgiveness is a long and complex process. This is something we tend to forget, blaming ourselves for not being forgiving enough. A serious wound takes a long time to heal, and the pain easily resurfaces, sometimes for no apparent reason. Forgiveness involves so many different dimensions of our person, from our will to our memory and emotions. Deciding to forgive lies at the beginning of this journey, a decision that is renewed and deepened as we move forward. 

Forgiving is the deepest form of love, when we love others beyond their mistakes, beyond the hurt they have caused us. In this we are similar to the Father who sends his rain on the deserving and the undeserving, and who embraces us all in his loving mercy. The struggle to forgive opens us to the presence of God's mercy all around us: the world would not exist if God does not forgive everything, one old woman once told Pope Francis.

This in turn helps us understand why forgiving others can be so difficult: we do not have God's limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus' repeated calls to forgive others become an invitation to open our hearts to the love of God and rely on it for what would otherwise be impossible.  Experiencing this forgiveness through the sacrament of penance is one sure way of obtaining the strength to forgive others as we have been forgiven.

 Jesus gave us another royal road to forgiveness: pray for those who harm you. I am sure that even the simplest and shortest prayer for those we wish to forgive is a clear sign we are well on the way to loving them.

By Paul Pace, SJ 

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