“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” (Matthew 18:21)
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus hits the nail on the head as far as teaching about forgiveness is concerned. More than once, Jesus warned us against withholding forgiveness. While teaching us to pray, Jesus included this wonderful phrase: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He went on to add, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:15).
With the parable of the unforgiving servant, Jesus warns that we would suffer greater consequences for our offences if we fail to forgive those who sin against us. In other words, we either forgive or perish. Let us now ponder: why is forgiveness such a hard thing to do?
One, forgiveness is painful, sacrificial and unnatural. It is much easier to remember the faults of others than the good they do for us. We think that peace of mind or joy hangs upon our ability to revenge or inflict pain on our offenders but the reverse is actually the case. Whatever we give out, we get back in double fold; when we give out pain, we get even more pain. We can never find joy by giving out pain.
Second, forgiveness is difficult because we place too high expectations on others; sometimes, even higher than what we expect of our own selves. We forget that humans are weak creatures and that only God can be trusted with such expectations. When we seek from people that which only God can give, we are always going to be disappointed. Jesus easily forgave his killers because he wasn’t expecting anything different from them. He said: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Jesus understood their situation.
Third, there is a feeling of joy and a sense of security we derive from refusing to forgive people. We feel that by removing certain persons completely from our life, we are protected from being hurt anymore. The truth is that by so doing, we throw out both the baby and the bathwater. That person you have sworn never to speak to today may just be your only helper tomorrow. Pray for him or her, wish them well, let go of the pain but retain the friendship.
Unforgiveness is sweet but it is highly poisonous. Carrying hate and bitterness in your hearts affects your ability to think properly, it prevents you from seeing the brighter side of life and it even affects your physical and mental health. Forgiveness has been scientifically proven to be medicinal. Doctors even recommend forgiveness therapy. Forgiveness is self-healing. Forgiveness grants us higher power and it is capable of cleansing our own sins.
In our first reading, God tells Ezekiel to prepare himself for exile and go about the people looking like one going on exile so draw the attention of the people to repent of their sins. God allows certain calamities to happen in our lives just to draw us closer to Himself. Out of His love for the people, God was willing to let them go to exile so that they can repent.
Come to think of it, what if God allowed all these people to offend you just to bring you to your knees and draw you to repentance? By refusing to forgive, you might just be fighting the wrong battle.
Finally, remember that when it comes to forgiveness, the first person to forgive is yourself. If you cannot forgive yourself, if you cannot be merciful to yourself, you cannot forgive anyone else. First accept you are not so perfect, accept that it was your fault and then watch how peace floods your heart.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the grace to forgive and quench every pain lurking within my heart. Amen
Bible Study: Ezekiel 12:1-12, Psalm 78 & Matthew 18:21-19:1).