What Does It Mean to Forgive?
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 20, 2022
“Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
(from Luke 6:27-38)
Of all Christ’s teachings, learning what it means to forgive someone is among the most crucial, and among the most difficult to understand. As all priests who hear confessions will attest, most of us struggle with what it means to practice this virtue. Before we look at what forgiveness is, we must see what unforgiveness IS.
What Unforgiveness IS
Forgiveness does not mean that we must forget. When we ask forgiveness of God in confession, being divine, he forgets. We, being human, cannot so easily do this. The Lord does not command us not to remember. It is impossible not to remember!
Forgiveness does not mean we are commanded to feel good about the person, or to continue to be friends with them, or to seek out their company. Rather, when we do encounter them, we are simply called to be cordial and then move on. Ill feelings and deep wounds may need counseling or an inner healing.
Forgiveness does not mean that we excuse what the other person has done.
What Forgiveness IS
Forgiveness means that we pray for the other person. This can take many forms. We can place these people in a “prayer bowl” with other intentions and include them in our general prayers, or make a list and place it in our prayer book, or place their initials behind a holy picture and simply touch it without words.
Forgiveness means treating the other person cordially. Passive aggressiveness, or making sure that with our face, words and actions that they know how much we dislike them, is a sign of unforgiveness within us. Say hello and move on if possible.
Forgiveness means we don’t talk badly to others about the person. It is acceptable to share one’s feelings with a friend, spouse or counselor, but telling everyone in town what the other person has done primarily wounds us and is a deep sign we have not yet forgiven.