No matter how far you feel you’ve fallen, or how long it’s been since you last talked to that person, it is never too late to ask God for forgiveness, to forgive yourself, or to start forgiving the ones who’ve hurt you. In short, mercy and forgiveness have no expiration date.
Everyone has their weaknesses, their vulnerable spots, the parts of their souls that are the most susceptible to temptation.
Today’s passage is definitely soap opera worthy. Heck, give this story to the writers of Game of Thrones and you could easily see this happening on HBO: A king lusts over the wife of one of his soldiers, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, and then kills her husband by sending him over to the front lines where he was guaranteed to die.
Let’s take a look at a person who committed a sin that some people still haven’t forgiven. He betrayed Jesus around the hour of his death, abandoned Jesus even when he swore up and down that he would always be there for his Savior.
Why do we need Confession?
Even though most of us aren’t people who would commit violent crimes, we still have a tendency to sin.
These two passages are very familiar ones. I want to focus on something these two passages have in common: through the parable of the Prodigal Son and the Adulteress, we can learn how to forgive ourselves.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”-Luke 23:34
Back in November of 2015, I got the chance to venerate the relics of St. Maria Goretti. I learned a lot about Saint Maria Goretti that night.
Stop me if you’ve heard of this country song or sang along to it whenever you heard it on the radio: “I pray your brakes go out running down a hill, I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to…” Whenever you pray for those who’ve hurt you, do your prayers sound like that?
This is not what Jesus meant when he said pray for your enemies. Turning the other cheek does not mean becoming a doormat, either. Back in biblical times, whenever someone struck a person on the cheek, the aggressor would strike with the back of his right hand as a way of marking the recipient of the violence as his social inferior. Turning the other cheek would force the person to hit them again, but using the palm of his right hand since nobody used their left hand for any form of social interaction at the time. Being slapped with the palm of someone’s hand meant being acknowledged as that person’s equal, even in conflict. In other words, turning the other cheek means standing your ground in a nonviolent manner.
One way that we can turn the other cheek towards our aggressors is to let go of the anger inflicted upon us and retaliating with selfless love. Sometimes, it comes in the form of just snarking at them in a very polite way. Other times it could mean killing them with kindness. But if the violence is especially strong, the best thing we can do is just treat the aggressor with compassion and mercy.
Having selfless love for those who’ve hurt you means wanting them to be happy. And I mean legitimately wanting happiness for them and not saying it sarcastically or bitterly. This selfless love has to come from the heart. Do they deserve this selfless love? No! None of us deserve to have selfless, unconditional love in our lives. It’s not something we’re entitled to. Nor will it be something that happens overnight. It all starts with letting go of our anger and fear.
After all, as Yoda said: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Listen to Francesca Battistelli’s “If We’re Honest” and pay attention to the lyrics. One thing I love about this song is that it reminds us that we are all in need of God’s mercy. The good news is that His mercy is infinite.
Saint Jerome, pray for us.
What exactly are you afraid of? Are you afraid of getting hurt again? Are you afraid that the person who hurt you will never change and continue to inflict pain to others? Are you afraid of being a victim of circumstances?
What are some ways to show selfless love and still stand your ground? Did you react to past issues with violence or flight or taking a third option?
Action: Offer all of your fears up to Jesus. Take a deep breath and pray as you breathe, sisters. Let the fear and anger out. Let God’s love come in. After all, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”
The story of Jonah is both a comedy and a tragedy. It’s comical because of the irony: a prophet actively trying to hide from God while all the pagan pirates and the city of Nineveh were more than willing to ask God for mercy when the situation calls for it.
Providence Grows From Hardships
I always believed that everything happens for a reason.
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”
Why does anyone need forgiveness? Because at some point in our lives, we hurt God in the same way that Adam and Eve hurt God in the Garden of Eden.
There’s a song that I always listen to when I think about giving and experience forgiveness. It’s called “Forgiveness” by Matthew West. I think this song will help explain what we’re going to be learning about in the next couple weeks:
It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
The idea of forgiveness seems easy at first glance. It’s easy to forgive an accident or to forgive a child when they made a mistake. I know that for some of you, forgiveness seems like such an unimaginable concept. It’s a lot to work though, especially if someone hurts you so much, it damages your mind, heart and soul. However, forgiveness isn’t something people deserve or have to earn. It’s something we all need. It’s an act of compassion, which means it’s given even when it’s not asked for.
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…
Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget that all the things that we suffered never happened. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t justified in your anger. It’s okay to feel angry, hurt, and afraid. At some point, though, you need to let go of all of that. It’s not something you can do right away and the anger won’t go away overnight. You have to start somewhere.
It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying “Set it free”
We’ve all been hurt in the past, some of us more than others. Forgiveness is a process that where we acknowledge the pain and make an effort towards letting it go. Letting go of the anger means no thoughts of revenge or hoping that the person that hurt us will suffer. It also means that you can’t lord your success over the ones who hurt you like getting a flashy new car and going “nah nah I’m doing so much better than you.” That’s not forgiveness. That’s being petty.
Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Holding onto your anger actually makes us victims of our circumstances. It’s so easy to play the victim card and get sympathy for others, make excuses for ourselves because we’ve been too hurt. In contrast, forgiveness asks us to selflessly love the ones who hurt us. It doesn’t always mean letting that person back into your life. It means to genuinely hope that they will let go and move past whatever hurt they have in their lives and become better people.
It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you
There was a time that I wanted revenge on those who hurt me. The pain that I suffered and the anger I felt blinded me for a long time until I learned that there was a common thread amongst those who have hurt me: they were all suffering from something and instead of trying to get past their hurt, they end up hurting others instead, myself included. For me, forgiveness was necessary to break this endless cycle of hurt.
I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
One surprising thing about forgiveness is that in letting go of the anger and hurt, you experience a peace that makes you unafraid of the ones who’ve hurt you in the past. There will come a time when you can finally look that person who hurt you in the eye and feel nothing towards them except the unconditional love that God put into your heart.
Since this is the year of Mercy, I invite all of you to join me on this journey in learning how mercy and forgiveness can change your life forever.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
1.What do you think is the hardest aspect of forgiveness? Why do you think it’s so hard to forgive?
2.How has forgiveness or a lack of forgiveness affected your life? How do you perceive forgiveness now?
Action: Offer prayers towards those who haven’t forgiven yet during this two-week journey. Ask God to help you let go of all the anger and hurt that you have towards them. It’s not gonna be easy, but I promise you that the process will be worth it.