The Jubilee Year of Mercy draws to a close this Sunday, November 20, on the Solemnity of Christ the King. However, we must continue helping people personally encounter the love, kindness, generosity and incredible mercy of God. During the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called Catholics around the world to “open wide” the doors of their hearts to forgive others.
It is in the family, where husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, guided by the Holy Spirit, model love and mercy to each other and their children. Jesus shows us how to do this; it is through forgiving those who have grievously offended us.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)
Jesus was an innocent man. He was guilty of no crime. Nevertheless, He was arrested, beaten, scourged and nailed to a cross. Near death, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father to forgive His persecutors. Jesus showed forgiveness and mercy to those who unjustly crucified Him. We are to do the same.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matt 26:28)
We are called to live a life of forgiveness and mercy like Christ. Can you forgive the one that has injured you so deeply? Can you forgive a family member in the midst of your hurt, your suffering? Many in the body of Christ suffer needlessly because they have unforgiveness in their heart toward someone who has hurt them. As God as forgiven us for our sins, we are to forgive those who have sinned against us.
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mk 11:25)
Extending forgiveness to one that has hurt you does not mean that you are condoning their behavior. There are consequences to sin and forgiveness does not erase those consequences. By forgiving another, you are releasing all bitterness and anger toward that person. Holding grudges and unforgiveness is a heavy cross to bear. It will enslave you. By extending forgiveness, your burden is lifted and you can live in freedom.
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6:36)
We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. It takes a humble and contrite heart to admit our failings and ask God for forgiveness. But God only forgives and extends His mercy when we admit our need. You need to grow daily in humility and gratitude, to acknowledge our need for God’s infinite mercy. There is no life apart from Him. When we have unforgiveness in our heart, we build a barrier in our relationship to God. We close off access to His mercy. When we forgive, the floodgates of God’s mercy open to pour forth healing for others, as well as ourselves.
I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Tim 1:14)
God’s grace was poured out on us through the death of His Son on the cross. Christ demonstrated His love for us by dying on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus is calling us to love as He has loved:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jn 13:34)
Be a channel of God’s forgiveness and mercy to your spouse and children. Let go of all bitterness, anger and resentment. Forgive them. Allow God’s forgiveness to reach the one who has wounded you. If you refuse to forgive another, you are withholding from them what God has so freely given you. To do so would be hypocrisy of the worst kind. Read the story of the wicked servant in Matthew 18:23-35. Do not be like that man who refused to forgive as he had been forgiven.
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt 18:35)
The true Christian, the real disciple, even when deeply hurt, must turn to Jesus and ask, “What would you have me do? How do I love this person as you would in these circumstances?”
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends…You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.” (Jn 15:12-13, 16-17)
If you cannot find it in your heart to forgive a family member, ask God to soften your heart. Ask Him to bless you with eyes to see your spouse or a child as He sees them. God so desires to give us the grace to forgive but we must ask Him to give it to us. Relationships are healed when we extend forgiveness to the one who has hurt us. Forgiveness melts hardened hearts.
God loves you beyond compare. He has forgiven you; you in turn are to extend that same forgiveness and mercy to all who have offended you. May God fill your heart to overflowing with His love and mercy.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess 1:2)