One area that we usually don't like to talk about much is that person (or persons) who has injured us deeply, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental. No matter how small or big, each of us probably has one or more people whom we need to forgive. For some of us, we still see this person often. For others, we haven't seen them in years. When Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, does someone like this come to mind?
There was a person in my life who used to be close to me. Through a series of events, my trust was permanently betrayed and I struggled with anger, guilt, shame, and unforgiveness. I could not accept God's love for me and ultimately couldn't love myself for a long time, much less this person. While I knew in my head that God forgave and forgot, I had rejected it in my heart. By His incredible grace, the Lord began several years of beautiful healing in me, which made a huge difference in my life, both spiritually and emotionally. As I struggled to forgive, I identified with Peter in Matthew 18:21-22. He asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, and Jesus' response continued to encourage me, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." I knew that I must forgive over and over again, as many times as it takes. I learned that only through forgiveness would I find freedom, and I would learn to love.
One evening during adoration, I found myself again fighting to forgive amidst the hurt and emotions. By a stirring of God's grace, I began to imagine that person entering the adoration chapel. I prayed to the Lord, "How would You look at her if she were here?" Mercy. Love. Compassion. Forgiveness. In other words, He would be exactly the God I knew Him to be. He would rejoice that His child had come to see Him and receive His love and mercy. The angels would sing songs of praise! I was so moved that I realized Jesus' words from the cross in Luke 23:34 applied to me as well as those who have hurt me, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
Do we have a true understanding of mercy? Because of our pride, accepting His mercy is often one of the hardest things to do. Not only that, but if we really believe in it, then we also accept it for all of God's children, our enemies as well as our friends. Mercy not only heals us, but it leads us to forgive others and gives them the freedom to heal as well! We must want the fullness of mercy and forgiveness for those who have hurt us – that is loving our enemies.
As we embark on a journey to truly love and forgive one another, the evil one would have us believe that it is not worth it. It is impossible. It works for some people but not me. It is not realistic. It is not fair. As these lies cross our minds, turn to Scripture and claim Truth! "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Mt 19:26). We must understand that this love, this forgiveness, this mercy, is not just something "nice to do." It is necessary for us as Christians. In Matthew 18:23-35 Jesus tells Peter a parable about forgiveness, saying that we must forgive our brothers from our hearts. In the Lord's Prayer, we say, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Our willingness to love and forgive concerns not just our good feelings, but our souls.
Every one of us is a beautiful daughter of God, and our brothers and sisters are His children as well. We are all broken people in need of salvation, love, mercy. Let us be a people who cannot wake up each day without thanking and praising the Lord for His mercy, that we are alive and forgiven and loved and healed! Our only proper response to the love of God is gratitude, bringing freedom and joy. And our only proper response to that freedom and joy is to show the same love of God to others, especially our enemies.
“Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the great mountain of the mercy of God." -St. John Vianney
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