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The Catholic Defender: Forgiveness is a Virtue

Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come Thy will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses As we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.

The Lord’s prayer is the most recognizable prayer that gives the basic tenet of Christians. “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As simple as this sounds, we all know this is easier said than done. How easy it is to allow ourselves to let anger set in. Families are torn a part and friends turn into enemies.

Even with the greatest examples known to man. Luke 11:2-4, "Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”. Jesus gives a teaching on the importance of forgiveness." Matthew 18:21:22 states, “Then Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” In each one of us there is a part of us that wants to hold onto anger. This can have serious spiritual, health consequences.

Catherine Ponder, a prosperity writer, once said, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

Coming from the field of Psychiatry it is becoming more understood that the affects of not forgiving has potential serious health risks. Bitter resentments, hatreds can lead to psychosomatic illnesses and disorders that can affect the mind and emotion. This most certainly can play a tremendous toll on the body. Healing is not only of the body, but also the mind and spirit. It is important to forgive your self and others.

John Paul II met with his Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca, the would-be assassin, in Agca’s prison cell in Rome. I’ll never forget the day when the Pope was shot. I had seen Pope John Paul II in October 1979 when he was in Chicago.

What a great witness and testimony the Pope gave to all the world, as he imitated the Lord’s forgiveness from the cross. That is the perfect example.

Christian Author Lewis Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

How true this quotation really is. The only way to be set free is to give the situation to God and let Him take it.

We are not always strong enough to forgive on our own. I have counseled people who had terrible things happen to them to give it to God.

Ephesians 1:7 states, “In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.” Because Jesus died on the cross and His forgiveness is for all, Jesus empowers all of us the power to forgive in his name.

Bryant McGill, a public speaker and activist said, “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” Without love we really do not gain anything.

First Corinthians 13 is known as the “love” chapter in the Bible.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

The importance of finding strength to confess your sins and allow God to heal you inside and out, to plug the holes.

To find healing from God, this requires humility and the ability to admit that we have sinned, fallen short.

We all need God’s help. Pride is a terrible road block to this, we must subdue our own personal pride and embrace the Lord’s plan of salvation. To create a clean conscience.

This is important in making a good Confession. If Catholics practiced going to Confession, there would be less need for Psychologists.

It is important in our relationships to love unconditionally so that there are no conditions. I love my wife without reservation. We choose to forgive without being asked to forgive. If we are building a foundation that God can build upon, love has to be the major ingredient.

We are to humble ourselves before the Lord, this is important in giving restitution to those we have offended. To correct wrongs, we will have to be willing to see within ourselves our own limitations. Matthew 5:23-24 states, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” I have seen this mostly with divorced couples who must wait for their annulment to go through before they can receive the Eucharist. Sometimes they will come up for a blessing. What I think is so awesome is when a child receives this blessing.

Many times the problem of forgiveness stems on the fact that we tend to be hardest on ourselves. I know that I am. Sometimes people develop a heart of stone because they refuse to face life. Their hearts grow cold and they do not allow God or anyone else to enter their life deeper than the surface. How great it is when a person finally goes to Confession and releases the chain they have been making link by link. At Marriage Encounter, I will never forget the person coming out of the Confessional for the first time in 10 years. He was in tears as he realized the chains he bore fell to the floor.

The forgiveness of memory is something I have promoted a lot among those I encounter who have had terrible violence happen to them. Bondage is a terrible place to be, even if it is within our own mind.

Addictions, suicide, false philosophies, drugs and alcohol will certainly bury us deeper and deeper away from what God’s forgiveness offers. Luke 4:18 states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

We are called by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation to bring the light to the world, to bring Christ to a dark world. Life is so good to not utilize it for the Glory of God. To find true happiness is to find yourself within the heart of Christ, His Sacred Heart, where Jesus offers His Divine Mercy.

About forgiving, one of my Facebook friends (Frank) said, “When it is “hard” to do so, begin by praying for God’s mercy for yourself and for your “enemy.” (For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.) That is great advice!

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