Columnists Life will be victorious

Column: Dual aspects of forgiveness are at heart of Year of Mercy

Life will be victorious

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann 

Do you know what Irish Alzheimer’s is? It is when you forget everything except your grudges.

Since we are within the octave of St. Patrick’s Day, I could not resist a bit of Irish humor. Unfortunately, the Irish are by no means unique in holding on to anger toward those who have in some way offended or wounded us.

However, Jesus is quite clear that if we want to receive God’s mercy, we must forgive those who have hurt us. In his instruction on prayer, Jesus tells his disciples to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt 6: 12).

Peter, in asking Our Lord how often he should forgive someone who sins against him, suggests in answer to his own question what he considered an incredibly generous response of seven times. Jesus counters that he should forgive 77 times. After this exchange with Peter, Jesus relates the parable of the unforgiving servant, who had been forgiven a huge debt by his master and then turns around to deny forgiveness to a fellow servant (Mt 18: 21-35). Jesus cautions his disciples that it will not go well for them with his Father, if they have not forgiven others from their heart.

Pope Francis has challenged Catholics throughout the world during this jubilee Year of Mercy to live more intentionally the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Two of the spiritual works of mercy are: 1) to forgive offenses and 2) to bear wrongs patiently. In your prayer, I encourage you to ask the Lord to make you aware of past hurts and wounds in your life. Ask Jesus to give you the grace to be able to forgive those who have hurt and offended you.

I am convinced that Jesus wants during this jubilee Year of Mercy to bring about some remarkable healings in our lives. However, we have to ask and truly desire in our hearts the ability to forgive others and to stop nurturing past wounds. What a different world this would be if we all committed ourselves to forgiving those who have in some way hurt and wounded us.

We also need to ask for the grace to be able to recognize where we have hurt or offended another. We could be the instrument God uses to bring about an amazing healing for another by our humility and courage in taking the initiative by asking forgiveness from them.

Of course, the sacrament of reconciliation (penance) can be a great source of grace and strength to help us forgive others. Having experienced God’s merciful love in our own hearts, how can we fail to forgive another, less we choose to be like the unforgiving servant in Our Lord’s parable.

The Eucharist can also provide us with the strength that we need to surrender to God our past hurts and offenses. When we encounter in the Blessed Sacrament the One who suffered unjustly and died on Calvary for us, we are empowered to be bearers of his mercy to the world. Moreover, we begin to see our own afflictions as precious opportunities to unite ourselves more closely with the Lord’s own suffering.

I invite all of us to ask and pray over two questions: Whom do I most need to forgive and from whom do I most need to ask forgiveness? Choosing to pray for the graces both to forgive and ask forgiveness could make this the most powerful Lent of our lives. Forgetting our grudges would be a great fruit of the jubilee Year of Mercy.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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