Friday, April 3, 2015

"Father, Forgive Them..."

These three words, uttered by the Lord as he hung in agony on the cross, present one of the most challenging aspects of being a Christian. It is difficult for us to forgive - it is not natural and our whole selves bristle at the thought.  When hurts run deep, the idea of forgiveness seems to be an insurmountable obstacle. Our bodies tense up, anxiety and anger rise within us -...they hurt us.....they don't deserve our forgiveness....these are the thoughts that race through our minds.

And yet, forgiveness is exactly what Jesus asks us to do. Each time we profess the Our Father, we recite the Lord's conditions for forgiveness: forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Our very prayer can be the words that pass sentence upon us if we are caught in the chains of unforgiveness.

What to do if we deeply desire to follow the Lord, and yet are struggling to forgive those who have hurt us? First, we must realize that forgiveness doesn't imply that what has been done to us is right. So often we hear this exchange when a wrongdoing has occurred: "I'm sorry."  "It's ok." Forgiveness does not say "It's ok." Forgiveness says, "What you did to me was wrong and I am choosing to forgive you for that wrong." As he hung upon the cross the Lord never said what was being done was "ok" - instead, he chose to forgive those who were persecuting him, ridiculing him, torturing him and humiliating him.  He chose to forgive all of us, whose sins he bore as he died.

Father Cantlamessa, in his 2015 Good Friday, describes the model of forgiveness that Jesus has set for us saying:
He presents his disciples with an example of infinite generosity. To forgive with his same greatness of soul does not entail just a negative attitude through which one renounces wishing evil on those who do evil; it has to be transformed instead into a positive will to do good to them, even if it is only by means of a prayer to God on their behalf. “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). This kind of forgiveness cannot seek recompense in the hope of divine punishment. It must be inspired by a charity that excuses one’s neighbor without, however, closing one’s eyes to the truth but, on the contrary, seeing to stop evildoers in such a way that they will do no more harm to others and to themselves.
One of the surest signs that we have forgiven someone from our heart is that we are able to pray for them and ask our Heavenly Father to bless them.

Finally, Father Cantalamessa explains how the Lord would answer our cries that forgiveness is impossible saying:
He (Jesus) would answer, “I know, but I died to give you what I am asking of you. I not only gave you the command to forgive and not only a heroic example of forgiveness, but through my death I also obtained for you the grace that enables you to forgive. I did not give the world just a teaching on mercy as so many others have. I am also God and I have poured out for you rivers of mercy through my death.
We need the grace and the mercy of the Lord to follow any of his commandments, but most especially the one to forgive. As we meditate on the mystery of Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection, and as we prepare to celebrate the great feast of Divine Mercy, let us ask the Lord for the grace that only he can provide to truly forgive those who have hurt us. Through that act of forgiveness of those who have deeply hurt us, we will experience the "freedom of the children of God" - freedom from anger, bitterness and resentment.  We deserve that freedom; Christ died in agony to win us that freedom; he will give us the grace we need to live in that freedom.


  1. Forgiveness: such a difficult thing, sometimes, but so SO important. Thanks for the beautiful post!

    1. Thanks Giedre - have a blessed Easter!