How Often Must I Forgive?

September 17, 2017

It is an interesting question.  Forgiveness is a healing that is intertwined with trust, respect and love.  On the surface, forgiveness is something we all know we are called to do.  Yet in the heart, the journey to forgiveness is lifelong.  The deeper the pain, the greater the cost it is to forgive. Jesus tells Peter that forgiveness is not just seven times, but much deeper.  He takes Peter’s number and multiplies it.  He takes what Peter wants to offer and says it is not even close.  Forgiveness is never easy.  The temptation is to forgive to a certain degree, but then to hold on and remember the pain.  God says to us , “I will remember your sin no more”.  Jesus, by dying on the cross, has canceled out our sins.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we hear through the words of absolution that our sins are forgiven by God.  “May God grant you pardon and peace”.  The peace is not ours to find. While we are initially relieved our sins are forgiven, finding this deep peace can be difficult, as this is a place where evil tries to sabotage us.  For example, sometimes a penitent will walk home from church and remember the sin and start obsessing over it again.  This is far from the peace that God offered.  Sometimes as we leave the confessional we question if we are really forgiven.  How can God do this?  This is far from the peace God is offering us.

Evil knows the power of forgiveness. Evil knows that it is the depths of God’s love that sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us.  Evil and darkness wants to cover the whole world.  When we reflect and meditate on the suffering of the cross, when we allow that to take hold, our sense of forgiveness and gratitude for what our Savior did deepens.  This allows us to grow in acceptance of the love God has for us. The power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation begins with the love God has for us, His desire to never abandon us and His desire that we never be defined by our sin.  He defines us by His grace.  It begins with the openness to admit we are sinners.

The Lord invites us to not only admit we are sinners, but to treat others as we have been treated.  We are to forgive and to share what we have received.  To be able to forgive another, we must first experience forgiveness within ourselves.  How we have experienced God’s forgiveness gives us the ability to forgive others.  When we have had an overwhelming experience of deep hurt being removed, we gain the ability to remove that hurt and pain from another.

This day the Lord invites us to forgive and realize we have been forgiven, trusting that He forgives perfectly.

Reverend John J. Ouper