By Fr. Frank J. Timar, MSC
Jesus set some mighty high standards for His disciples. Among the hardest requirements of all was His insistence that we take the first step in setting things right when we have a falling out with others, no matter who’s to blame. It is more important to restore love than to blame others or even to protect our pride. If we dealt with conflict the way Jesus did, we would avoid a lot of grief, but sadly, most of us want to wear a chip on our shoulder and wait for the other person to apologize.
We have often heard that to err is human and to forgive is divine! The wrongs that happen in our world are done by humans. Don’t let us blame God! It’s true that to forgive is divine, but Jesus wanted us to believe that it can and must be human too. Forgiveness is a two-way street. Jesus pointed out that God’s forgiveness of us depends upon our willingness to forgive others. We see how important this is in the prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer, and Jesus gives us this caveat in a story He tells His disciples, my heavenly Father will not forgive you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. In other words, no forgiveness for the unforgiving.
We, too, are very much like Peter who asks, “Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him?” We allow ourselves to be angry at someone who has hurt us, especially if it is someone we love. We wonder if we can or should ever trust that person again.
This is where the real problem lies. How can we, in good conscience, allow ourselves to be angry and hold a grudge when we consider the number of times God has forgiven us? Jesus taught us that there is no room for licking wounds or nursing grievances. To harbor our resentments is like closing a wound with all the infection still on the inside, and healing can’t happen. We have offended God so often and broken His rules many times, but He has never given up on us. He has never withheld His blessings from us. We even wonder why God is so good to us. Despite our many sins and faults, He continues to forgive us. The amazing truth is that the Lord does not hold a grudge.