Category Archives: forgiveness
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” – Luke 12: 49-53
Being a Christian can feel lonely at times. In today’s culture you may feel ostracized by the world that just wants you to keep your mouth shut and your beliefs to yourself. Also at times, you may feel a sort of spiritual loneliness; where like David in the Psalms, you feel like God is hiding His face from you. Being a Christian is not always a walk in the park. I have personally found that one of the most painful feelings for me is wanting to share the joy I have found in Christ, but even among those closest to me, they simply do not want to hear about it. Sometimes I desperately want to be open about that part of myself with those I love who are not Catholic, but I know it will be met with silence, sarcasm, or anger. Though I still speak up in defence of the truth, I have also had to find different ways of showing that faith without words to my family and friends who do not believe or are against listening to anything that leans towards objective truth.
In our present culture, where “hate” has become the new catchphrase for anyone who stands up for objective moral truth, it is almost comical to see how much hatred the world has for authentic Christianity. Jesus warned us of the hate we would experience for loving and following Him, but He also reminds us that the world hated Him first.
The struggle can be difficult at times, yet, we know that there is victory in the struggles that we endure as Christians. The feeling of loneliness we can encounter can become redemptive. We can come to encounter Christ more deeply by offering our suffering to Him and with Him. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end… and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.” We must take these words to heart and remember that the lives we live here are temporary.
It is of great importance to pray for the gifts of charity, humility, and patience. Charity is one of the hardest things to practice toward someone who speaks ill of you. It can be equally as hard to remain charitable when Christ or His Church is attacked. It can be much easier to get angry than to take a breath, pray for a moment, and speak respectfully to that person. Keep in mind our Blessed Lord before Pontius Pilate. He simply spoke the truth in peace.
It can be difficult to love the people who attack us, whether it be in the online sphere or among our families, friends, co-workers, etc. It is of paramount importance that we continue to love those who hurt us. This doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends, or even get along. It may even mean ending the relationship. But, we must be willing to reach out and serve them. We must remember that they deserve love and respect, even when they don’t give these things to us. Jesus loves the person who attacks us and desires for them to be united with Him for all eternity. Our job is to show that by our deeds, and then our words.
Remember you are not alone.
I remember years ago feeling very alone and wishing that I wasn’t. I was so caught up in myself that I forgot that I was never alone. I failed so many times to enter into prayer, to recall the saints, or to seek out authentic community. In hindsight, I wish I had been able to remember those painful hours Jesus wept in the garden. I forgot that on the cross, Jesus cried out, “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Now, I understand that I can take consolation in the fact that not only can I offer my struggles, loneliness, and sufferings to Jesus, but that I can unite them with His suffering for the salvation of souls.
Pray for those that persecute you. Pray that their hearts may not be hardened. Pray that they may recognize the love in you as God’s love for them. Pray for them if they abandon you, or if you have to leave that relationship for reasons beyond your control. Leave it all in the hands of the Father. He will take care of His children.
We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God. – Saint Vincent de Paul
And He said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. – Luke 12:15
I’m sure that many of us could easily admit that our culture is materialistic. From the time we were children, whether we know it or not, we learned selfish tendencies, and in more than just materialistic ways. We have been taught to look after ourselves first, and while this can be important to keep ourselves healthy (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), unfortunately we often slip into habits of greed and selfishness, sometimes without even realizing it.
The way we interact with people may be selfish. Do we wish to surround ourselves with people that will make us feel good all the time? Do we want to only be surrounded by people that fit a certain criteria? If we surround ourselves with people that must make us feel good all time and never be truly honest or challenge us to grow to be better people, then we are simply being proud. Relationships should be rooted in love, and a desire to lead each other to holiness. If we only have friends because they make us feel good, or they satisfy a need for entertainment, then it should not surprise us if eventually those relationships wither and die.
Although there is beauty in friendship, and there can certainly be good fruits from many of our relationships, the goal should not be our own satisfaction. We certainly need care and love, and it is definitely necessary at times to ask in humility for respect and love from those that claim to love us, but the end result should aim to help the other grow closer to Christ.
Do we often think about others first? When we do things for people, do feel like we need to always be thanked, praised, or paid back? If we are truly acting out of love, then we should not feel the need for all or any of those things. Love does not require a payback, a thank you, or recognition from other people. Of course we should do what we can to thank those who are loving towards us, but when we are bitter when we are not noticed for being loving, then that loving action instantly becomes twisted with our pride. When we love, maybe we should just love expecting nothing at all. We should see the love we give as a reward in itself.
Let temporal things be in the use, eternal things in the desire.” ― Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
I am not saying it is not a worthy pursuit to be happy. What I can say, however, is that holiness ultimately trumps an earthly happiness. What should take priority above all things, even our own happiness, is being holy, and seeking to have a good relationship with Christ. There are things in life that require sacrifice. There are things in life that will hurt, and that hurt may go on for a long time. There are things in life that maybe we didn’t plan or even want, but have been given to us to help us to grow strong, and to grow in love.
If when we were children and we were taught in schools to do what made us happy rather than to always do what is right, imagine the chaos our world would be in. If we were taught growing up to love, to do the right thing, even if it meant not getting what we wanted, and to be selfless, we would live in a world where things would be much different. If we each sought actual holiness instead of happiness, I think in turn we will also find happiness. Happiness does not always lead to holiness, but holiness will lead to a joy far greater in heaven.
During this lenten season, we are called to reflect on our relationship with Christ and prepare ourselves for Easter. The Church calls us to fast, to pray, and to give alms. We should hold ourselves accountable for sins of selfishness and greed that may be in the way of having a better relationship with God, and with the people that surround us in our homes, workplaces, and in society in general. Let us seek to live our lives that are holy above all else, that seek simplicity and truth, and that help us to be humble. The things we accumulate in this world will not come with us when we die. If we wish to accumulate something in life, it should be acts of love, and a desire to love selflessly above all else. This is what will yield good fruit, if not in this world, then in the eternal kingdom of heaven.
The patient man hath a great and wholesome Purgatory; who, suffering wrongs, is more concerned at another’s malice than at his own injury; who prays freely for his adversaries, forgiving their offences from his heart; who delays not to ask pardon of others; who is easier moved to pity than to anger; who does frequent violence to himself, and strives to bring his flesh wholly in subjection to the spirit. – Thomas A. Kempis
Forgiveness is one of those things that many of us struggle with, whether it be forgiving ourselves, a friend, a stranger, or someone we dislike. Sometimes it is done with gritted teeth and clenched fists. Other times we cry because it pains us to recall the memory of being hurt, but we are happy that there is opportunity for healing.
For most of us, forgiveness is easier said than done. Sometimes, it is just easier to just think to ourselves ‘that person will get what’s coming to them, and when they do, see if I care’. We can become so consumed by our anger or pain that forgiveness isn’t really something we even want to think about. We can so easily become focused in our own feelings, and feel that we are the ones that deserve an apology, justice, or revenge in extreme circumstances.
However, our imperfect ability to forgive is challenged when we seek forgiveness from God. Gods forgiveness is perfect. It overflows graciously when we ask for it in confession. Without pause, God forgives us of our sins. This example of loving mercy and compassion should drive us to give forgiveness compassionately as well as to seek it with a humble heart, for Jesus said, “if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you”.
Going to confession is a hard thing to do. I am a sinner, these are my sins. I am ashamed of them, and now I have to confess them to God who already knows them? Its hard, especially if the sins are ones we haven’t confessed long since the sin was committed, and our shame is great. In reality, when we sin, we hurt our relationship with God. And yet, when we confess our sins, when we sincerely apologize to God and make our act of contrition, those sins are forgiven. What a magnificent gift God gives to us!
Should we not also give this gift to others? How readily do we forgive when someone approaches us in humility for forgiveness? Sometimes we are silent, still fuming away because of how we have been abused, betrayed, and hurt. Other times we lash out in anger. I have been in both of these circumstances. I have gotten angry. I have pursed my lips tightly and eaten away at the insides of my lips just to keep myself from shouting out. Holding back is sometimes not easy, especially when we are so deeply wounded.
Sometimes, when we are challenged to forgive, we create our own victim complex. Our pain is always worse. We are always the ones that need to be apologized to. We are never at fault and its always someone else’s fault. The world is always against us. This is a manifestation of pride. In choosing to think this way, we fail to recognize our own failings and therefore we further distance ourselves from our neighbours and wound our relationship with God.
This does not mean that there are not situations where we are not victims, and that there are times where we do need an apology to move forward. What is important though, is the freedom that forgiveness can bring. It may not always be full healing, but the fact that there can be potential for it is a crucial aspect to getting on with life and not being held back by fear and pain. We must remember to always be forgiving, even if forgiveness is not asked for.
The greatest example of forgiveness is found on the crucifix. Jesus said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” After all that had happened to Him, He still asked His Father to forgive His executioners, the ones that humiliated Him and tortured Him, and even those who had cheered for His death. Jesus’ pain was so great and immeasurable, we can not even begin to comprehend it. He had been betrayed, sold for silver at the hands of Judas, Peter denied even knowing Him, and the torture He endured was slow and painful. And yet still, His love was greater than that. As Christians, we must seek to love others in this way.
This may mean we might have to forgive our brothers and sisters over and over again, just as we confess our sins in the sacrament of confession time and time again. We shouldn’t forgive as little as we need to, but forgive as often as we can.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22
As our Lord said, it is actually required for us to be forgiving. This does not mean that we allow for sin, but it means always being forgiving when we are wounded by our neighbour.
We must also recognize the need to say “I am sorry, please forgive me”. It is when we do this with a friend, a family member, perhaps to someone we just bump into at the market, we are humbled. When it is of a sincere heart, we are acknowledging our fallen, broken nature. We must be able to do this if we are to come to terms with this ourselves. It is only through humility that we can overcome pride, which is the root of sin.
In exercising forgiveness, we strengthen ourselves, not to mention help ourselves in ways that aren’t just spiritual. By choosing not to forgive, we choose not to move forward. That choice to not forgive can be more devastating than the initial harm at times. It can hold us back from having better relationships. It can prevent us from fully overcoming feelings of pain, and even stop us from forgiving ourselves.
Let us be inspired by all the saints who heroically forgave. Saint John Paul II forgave the man who shot him. St. Maria Goretti, a young girl, forgave the man who tried to rape her and stabbed her when she resisted. Most importantly, we must remind ourselves of Gods forgiveness and mercy, and of how He is abounding in compassion.
Let us pray for one another, that we may all grow in strength to forgive everyone, including our enemies. Pray also for me, that I may forgive.