Why forgiveness is the hardest part of faith

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March 15 / First Friday of Lent

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If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. ~Ps130:3-4

For me, forgiveness is one of the hardest imperatives of faith. I know that holding onto anger or resentment harms me more than it affects the perceived offender, and I know, too, that not to forgive is to practice self-righteousness and even to play God. But sometimes it is difficult to let go of these wrongs — small offenses like someone cutting in front of me in traffic or larger ones like being betrayed by a friend, judged by a colleague or spoken about unkindly. It is much more satisfying to stack up the grudges, mount my high horse and assume an attitude of moral superiority than it is to get down and ask myself why I expect to be treated like a queen anyway.

Today’s psalm verses hold up God’s forgivingness as an object lesson for all of us, reminding us how miraculously fortunate we are that our Creator doesn’t hold a grudge. Not only does God not keep track of our iniquities, he is the very essence of forgiveness. The verbal formulation is compact, simple, direct in its intent and meaning. The Hebrew reads, literally: “For with you, forgiveness,” the psalmist’s gratitude for God’s mercy radiating out from the verse. In like manner, we are called to incorporate an ethos of mercy into our thoughts and actions, allowing it to govern our responses to slights and hurts of all sizes.

We must forgive sincerely, completely and wholeheartedly, not holding back, not making a false peace and not congratulating ourselves on our magnanimity. In humility and love, we must simply embody and extend to others the complete forgiveness that God gives us. Even to that driver who cut in front of me in traffic yesterday.

Compassionate Lord, I thank you this day that you do not give me what I deserve, and ask that you help me forgive others with all my heart.Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.
To hear “Out of the Deep” from John Rutter’s Requiem, click here.

[Editors’ note: This is part of a daily Lenten reflection series. Sign up for our America Today newsletter to receive each reflection every day in your inbox.]

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Kat Beaulieu
2 months ago

Now more than ever in our divided hearts and divided society, we need to learn how to forgive. Wouldn’t it be great if all parishes teamed up with psychologists and spiritual directors to present courses on forgiveness. It is a process, but we could walk with all those willing to try!

arthur mccaffrey
2 months ago

forgiveness is the prerogative of the victim, so there is no "we must" about it. Victims need to be nurtured to tell their story and learn how to come to terms with their hurt in a way that is meaningful for them--this takes time (if ever) and possibly counselling--not the kind of rah rah boosterism spouted in this article. Forgive me!

Bonnie Weissman
2 months ago

What if you have forgiven the person for something serious, you pray for them and their family daily, but cannot allow them back into your life? Their repeated behavior in private is toxic and causes all kinds of problems.

[Editors’ note: This is part of a daily Lenten reflection series. Sign up for our America Today newsletter to receive each reflection every day in your inbox.]

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