As we enter into Holy Week, I hope you can look back on this Lent and say this Lent has been different, but in a great way. I hope in small way these reflections have helped. Matthew Kelly mentioned that the two pillars of what makes Christians different are generosity and forgiveness. Last week we talked about generosity, and how we can remain open to God’s generosity and those around us. This week I want to focus on forgiveness, what it means and its importance for our lives.
Do you hold grudges? To be completely honest, I have a hard time with this. So many people have caused a lot of pain in my life, then chose to leave my life altogether. Why should I forgive them? They definitely did not seek the best of me as a person, or the direction I was headed. However, this isn’t the point. It isn’t about I, I, I. This is the importance of forgiveness; it brings us out of ourselves, and with the grace of God, allows us to do the impossible. I want to stress this point: Without God’s help, true forgiveness is almost impossible.
I had a situation last year where my “friend” took some words that I said and took them in another way. After this moment, he stopped talking with me and proceeded to gossip about the situation (not the first time either). Once I heard of this, I got so fed up with the friendship and situations like these that I stopped talking with him for many months. He was like a spiritual brother to me, but this situation had made me want to move on: forever. Over these several months, this friend was on my heart and I continued to pray for him. Just recently I reached out to him and we caught up about our lives. I humbled myself by apologizing for my actions and words in the situation and asked his forgiveness. He accepted but said ultimately it was going to take a while to gain my trust back. We still keep in touch and I am very thankful for his forgiveness and his friendship in my life.
Am I still hurt by what he did? Absolutely. Did it cause me a lot of stress and anxiety? Yes. Forgiveness is the thing that looks at these hurts and anxieties and states that we are made for more.
Forgiveness moves us beyond our pain and towards sharing God and receiving God.
It took a lot of humility to ask for forgiveness in a situation that hurt me so much. However, I am thankful for my good friend’s friendship and I know his friendship will always do so much more for me than my hurt.
There are really three moves of forgiveness: giving out forgiveness, being forgiven by others, and then ALSO forgiving yourself. I felt this in my relationship with Jesus as well. As I held this grudge with my good friend, I realized I had a hard time understanding God’s love and being open to receiving that love. I had no idea that this situation would influence my relationship with Jesus so much. In fact, it had hardened my heart so much that I was receiving only a fraction of the love Jesus was trying to give me.
As Fr. Mike Schmitz would say, forgiveness isn’t necessarily an event, but rather a process. It is a process that says, “I know what you owe me, I have counted up the cost, and I will not make you pay me back”. Just like when Jesus continually forgives us through the sacrament of reconciliation (often for me with the same habitual sins), I can feel God’s forgiveness and share it more because I have done all that I can to un-harden my heart from all of the junk the world that builds up. I encourage you to seek out the sacrament of reconciliation as we fully enter into this Holy Week. Be honest, and enter deeper into this important week of the Church knowing what it means to forgive, what it means to be forgiven, and how we can share that forgiveness more often.