Saturday, March 1, 2014

As We Forgive Those...

Eduard Veith: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I've heard people say, "I cannot forgive this person but I do not wish them in hell." What they may not understand is that this is the spiritual reality that underlies not forgiving others, the condemnation of the person, and this is why God warns us about it over and over in the Bible. The refusal to forgive is your personal "judgment" on the soul you withhold forgiveness from. When you don't forgive you are in essence saying that your judgment holds more water than God's. We align ourselves with the accuser instead of the God of mercy whom we claim to trust.

I am not being harsh in my assessment of unforgiveness.  In the Bible, Jesus himself makes this very clear to us numerous times (see below). The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say regarding
"forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" :

2840 Now - and this is daunting - this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father's merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.

"Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible" - this statement says so much. Who are we harming by our refusal to forgive? The entire Body of Christ, that's who. Everyone.  And mercy cannot penetrate our hearts if we refuse to forgive. Daunting, for sure. Thank you, Lord, for Confession, that beautiful Sacrament that lays bare our hearts so that we can be healed.

2841 This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount. This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But "with God all things are possible."
. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us

2842 This "as" is not unique in Jesus' teaching: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"; "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful"; "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves "forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave" us.

2843 Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. the parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.

2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. the martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.

Reading this section on forgiveness from the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes me very grateful to be Catholic. What a treasury of wisdom we have at our fingertips!

Here are two links on unforgiveness that I also found helpful:

Unforgiveness is the cause...

Human Defenses Against Forgiveness


  1. Let's imagine we're in Heaven, (after spending some time in the Purification Center to wash away any sins we may still have had), and there in Heaven we meet someone who years ago did us harm. Real harm.

    How do we feel?

    God forgave them? Why couldn't we?

    NOT forgiving is an act in itself. It means holding a grudge and wanting total revenge and more besides.

    Forgiving is letting go. Difficult as it may be as the memories come back to hurt us some more.

    Thank you for what is now becoming a series of excellent posts, Mary.

    God bless.

  2. Hi Victor,
    Amen. Thank you for your comment. When I read what the CCC had to say about forgiveness I immediately thought of your post "No Peace...", especially where it mentions:It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession." Your post was right on the mark!

    1. It was right on the mark because the hurt is still there many years on.

      Thank you for writing on this subject.

      God bless.

    2. I guess that's how most of us learn to forgive well, Victor - through experience. And I think that praying for the person who harmed us when the memories well up is very good advice.

      God bless you too.

  3. Mary,

    I often think about what it would be like to be the person who is refused forgiveness. How sad it would be if we were really sorry and someone refused to forgive us. We wouldn't be able to go back and change the past. Only by being forgiven can we move forward and make things right with that person. We always have the future but the past is gone. Of course there are people who aren't sorry for their past mistakes. I guess then we forgive and move forward by ourselves.

    Mary, like always your posts are very thought provoking and well researched. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Sue. You're right, some people aren't sorry for their past mistakes which makes it harder for the person who has to do the forgiving. I guess this is one of the reasons why forgiving CAN be so tough for us. I truly believe that God really helps those who have to forgive someone who is not sorry at all by giving them special graces to do so.

      By the way, I didn't think you ever got snow where you live! I was surprised to see the pictures you posted :)

  4. You have been tagged for the LENT MEME on my Blog.

    God bless.

  5. Thanks Mary for this post on Forgiveness and thank you for the links. I love reading about forgiveness.

    1. Hi Monica,

      The links were excellent! I love reading about forgiveness too. I only meant to post one but I couldn't decide between the two so they both went up :)

    2. I'm glad you posted both! I found the prayer on the Presentation site helpful: "By God's grace, I decide to forgive (name of person) for (name of sin)."

  6. "and forgive us our sins ... as we forgive those who trespass against us"

    If we pray this in earnest, and then don't forgive someone ... we are basically "telling" God he can treat us the same!

    God Bless you!