Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Do we find forgiveness or does forgiveness find us?
When Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” he implied a reality that none of us would deny. He didn’t say “if others offend us or hurt us, enable us to forgive them.” Rather, he tells us when they offend us—as they inevitably will—let our hearts be big enough to extend forgiveness to them, that same forgiveness that we want for ourselves.
And there is even more to this simple petition. This prayer that Jesus himself taught us begins with God forgiving us: “You, Lord, forgive us our trespasses.” It belongs uniquely to God and no one else to forgive sin. Ultimately, forgiveness can only belong to God, because to forgive is to breathe new life in another person. Only the creator can bring new life out of the nothingness of our sins and offenses. Mercy and forgiveness finds us. Forgiveness begins with God who finds us broken and wounded. And God binds the wounds and breathes new life into us.
We would, however, be sadly mistaken if we were to think that this is simply a quick and simple matter of forgive-and-forget, a cheap pass to get out of trouble. When we want the forgiveness and mercy of God to find us and transform us, we must both ask for it (“forgive us our trespasses”) and be willing ourselves to live in that mercy by forgiving others (“as we forgive those who trespass against us”).
It all comes together in the sacrament of penance, when we go to confession. The mercy of God is waiting to find us. We take a step. In faith, we ask for forgiveness. The dead weight of sin is lifted. We are infused with new life. God is true to his merciful word. But is it real? Are we truly forgiven? Do we have new life within us? The proof is not only the forgiveness received but in the forgiveness we give to others—“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” When we walk in mercy, we know that mercy has found us.
Experience the power of the merciful forgiveness of God that we both receive and share in the Sacrament of Penance and in our celebration of the Festival of Forgiveness on February 27-28.