By: Sister Carmelina, OCD
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, . . . forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Col. 3:12-14
This sounds good to me when I’m dealing with the little things that can trouble me. But, there are things that are so big that they ‘tear me apart’ because of the intensity of the pain. I’m overwhelmingly angry and resentful. Then what?
People familiar with AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) are familiar with this slogan: “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” I could just replace ‘resentment’ with ‘unforgiveness’ and it would be just as true. And there are certainly cases where this seems impossible: physical or mental abuse; abandonment; betrayal by a spouse or friend; violent crime against a loved one or myself; dishonesty that deprives me of my livelihood or ability to provide for my family; injustice that flies in the face of all that is right. Yes, it’s even hard to say the word, “forgive” when emotions and memories burn so intensely. Yet, Jesus gave us the example on the cross. And, though I’m not God, He can empower me by His grace to do the seemingly impossible, especially when I’m in a close relationship with Him. The mercy and forgiveness He has given me is my call to do the same.
“Forgiveness sets a prisoner free, and that prisoner is me.” Only God’s grace and mercy can empower a person to ‘love the unlovable’ and do ‘the impossible’. There are examples of the power of forgiveness in people’s lives that can ‘blow you away’ with their profound effects. The most heart wrenching example I can think of is St. Maria Goretti, who forgave her murderer and by appearing to him in prison brought him to repentance and conversion. Mama Goretti also forgave him and took him as her ‘child’ as they sat together at Maria’s canonization. What a tremendous story of the power of forgiveness and mercy toward ‘the unreachable’ murderer who eventually became a Franciscan lay brother and looked forward to meeting Maria ‘my angel’ in heaven. This is what forgiveness looks like.
Since the effects of unforgiveness are the heavy burden of bitterness and mental stress from re-living the hurt, which depletes our energy and ultimately gives that person control of our lives. . . . “let it go, let it go” is the best advice! We must rely upon God’s power and sincerely seek His help. This will draw us closer to Him in a deep and profound way. As Fr. Jacques says: “Generosity in love and forgiveness, make us ‘sons of the Most High’, and set us free to explore the limitless oceans of God’s love and life, where the deepest aspiration of our own hearts will one day be satisfied.”