FORGIVENESS IS AT THE HEART OF CHRISTIAN FAITH


If Jesus has been clear about anything in his teaching, it is the call to love, to forgiveness, to mercy and to compassion. The Church’s foundational belief in the unconditional mercy of God has been the consistent theme of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as well. “It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! … “Oh, I am a great sinner!” All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!” He forgets; He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more “

It is this gift of love and mercy showered upon us by our Heavenly Father that not only frees us from our sin and restores us to a life of grace, but it is the reason we must be the same with others. In our second reading, Saint Paul makes it clear that “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” This is part of the great and most important commandment of the law: We can only love God to the degree that we are able to love our neighbor. This is no easy sentiment or fleeting emotion but the greatest virtue of all. “Love does no evil to the neighbor.” Saint Paul has spoken about this call to love in concrete terms that leaves no doubt as to what is expected of us. Love is kind; it is patient; it bears all things and forgives all things; it is never boastful or proud or self-seeking. Love requires of every Christian the ability to put the other’s interests above our own. Even Jesus reminded his disciples: What good is there in loving those who love you, even the pagans do that! We are called to love our enemies, those who are difficult and unkind and mean spirited and ungrateful.

Jesus challenges us to work at healing divisions. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This is the work of every Christian. It is our responsibility in faith to speak with love, to seek reconciliation, to heal what is broken, to shower another with mercy and tenderness so that the human heart can receive tenderness and the bonds of love among us can be restored. But so often our response is to get angry, to speak badly of another, to desire harm, to seek to get even, to push another aside in disdain. These are contradictions to those who want to live as Christians. Even when our best efforts fail, Jesus says that we must pray with a desire that God’s power and grace will accomplish what we unable to do. “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my Heavenly Father.” The mercy and love of God given to us in Jesus Christ is the gift that we must seek not only for ourselves but for all our brothers and sisters, especially those with whom we struggle.