September 17, 2012
Forgiveness is one of the many topics in the New Testament for which Jesus offers us no wiggle room. “How often must I forgive?” Peter asks, “as many as seven times?” Peter thinks he is being generous. Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy seven times” (Matthew 18: 21-22). In other words, keep on forgiving—once is never enough, neither is seven or seventy seven. Jesus’ own life and example match his words. From the cross he utters a loud and painful cry to the Father, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34).
If Jesus’ words above are not difficult enough, it gets even worse. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). The implication is clear: you are not strong enough to forgive what others have done to you by your own strength. The grace of God is an absolute necessity. Without Christ, forgiveness is an impossible hurdle to jump over.
How do you begin? Forgiveness, like the rest of life, begins on your knees. If you are honest, you probably cannot or even desire to forgive those who have hurt you immediately in this present moment. Yet you can, with all honesty, admit to the Lord your inability to forgive as He asks you and then beg for the grace to desire to forgive those who have hurt you. It could be a prayer as simple as this: “Lord, help me to forgive as you ask, because by myself I am not strong enough, and without You I can see no reason to forgive.”
Forgiveness is never easy. That is why God reminds us constantly that we need his help. May you allow Him to help you so that you can begin to walk on this difficult yet liberating journey that is forgiveness.
God bless you,
Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY