I’ve always been a very forgiving person. I’ve even written* about forgiveness several times before explaining that when our heart is filled with anger and resentment that there is no room for God. We have to empty our hearts of that anger, resentment, and hurt if we wish for God to be able to fill us with His peace and love. It’s not always been an easy task for me to forgive others when they have hurt me, but I know that God calls me to this task. I’ve even been accused of being too forgiving… but I don’t think that is possible.
Still, as forgiving as I am, right now I am struggling to forgive someone who has hurt my entire family.
Chapter 12: The Soul of the Gospel
“There can be no peace without forgiveness”… I believe this to be true. I suppose that is why lately I haven’t had a lot of peace. I am struggling to forgive someone who has not only hurt my family, but continues to look for ways to hurt my family. Worse yet, she relishes in the fact that she causes pain and she sees nothing wrong with her actions. It’s easier to forgive someone when they seem at least a little contrite, but I know more than likely she will never feel that remorse. Still, I know I am called to forgive her and so one of my Lenten sacrifices is to pray for her and to forgive her. Both of these acts are difficult to do.
But, like Matthew Kelly said, when we turn our backs on forgiveness, we turn our backs on God and on who we are called to be. We create a barrier around our hearts and this keeps God from healing us. How can we grow spiritually when we are full of hate or full of hurt?
My all-time favorite bible verse is from Matthew 5:38-48…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
To me it is the pinnacle of the entire Gospel. It is what it truly means to be a Christian. It is the hardest teaching to follow and the one that we must if we wish to be called one of Christ’s own. We can’t live out God’s commandments of putting God first and loving our neighbors as ourselves if we don’t also love and pray for our enemies. This is the hard stuff… the stuff that defines who we are and who God calls us to be. This verse challenges me and helps me to be the best person I can be. It helps me to show true love and true mercy.
Point to Ponder: Everybody needs to forgive someone.
I think that no matter who we are or how at peace we think we are there is someone in our lives that we need to extend forgiveness to. Matthew Kelly talks about even the little annoyances that crop up throughout the day- the irritating co-worker, the person who cuts you off while driving, the person who gave you poor service, the customer who treated you poorly, and the list can go on and on.
I hope that this Lent you begin a habit of praying for those people. Believe me, I know how hard it is to pray for the people who have caused you so much pain or even just have made your day a little harder… but it’s worth the effort.
Verse to Live: “If you forgive others their trespasses your heavenly father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14
When we practice forgiveness we are given forgiveness. But there is a flip side to this as well. When we refuse to forgive we risk the same fate for ourselves. Is that a risk you are willing to take?
Question to consider: How seriously do you take Jesus’ invitation to forgive?
I take this very seriously and have often been accused of forgiving too easily. I think we must guard our hearts so that we don’t allow people to hurt us and use us, but I also believe that we must forgive if we want to heal and to be able to love fully. That’s not to say it’s easy. I am struggling so much with that right now. It’s harder for me when it involves my family and particularly my children. Still, I know that it’s what I am called to do and so I am doing my best to offer forgiveness even if the person who has harmed us does not feel she needs to seek forgiveness.
Your Turn: Are you struggling to forgive someone? Do you feel that this struggle affects your spiritual growth and your closeness to God? Is it difficult to pray for those who have hurt you?
Prayer: Jesus, you forgive me even though you know I am going to sin again. Teach me to be that generous with my forgiveness.
Help me to see those who hurt me through your eyes. Strengthen me to extend forgiveness even to those who don’t seek it. I know that when I forgive others I empty my heart of hate and anger and instead make room for your love and mercy. Amen.
*If you’d like to read more of what I have written about forgiveness you can find it here and here at Catholic Sistas and here and here at Catholic Stand.