Forgivenes

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“We resemble God most when we forgive our neighbors.”
Diary, 1148

Week 39

So often we struggle in the spiritual life because we are not willing to forgive or to accept someone’s forgiveness. We may fail to show mercy to others and can turn our backs on Jesus, the King of Mercy, Who urges us to be merciful. In addition, it is essential to accept God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness — a tough word to swallow. Nonetheless, we will feast on it during this week’s spiritual exercise! There’s no time to waste. Ready? Set? Go!

How hard it is to say, “I’m sorry.”

It can also be difficult to accept someone’s apology when we are still stinging with pain from their insult or some hurt inflicted upon us.

We even have trouble accepting God’s forgiveness. We might want to wallow in our misery for a while and even throw a pity party for ourselves.

Perhaps we would rather totally close ourselves off to the notion of forgiving or accepting forgiveness. Why is that? Because we would have to choose the high road and swallow our pride in order to forgive or to accept someone’s forgiveness. More accurately, we need to die to self. We need to humble ourselves, and that is difficult. To the extent that we are unwilling to forgive, we are kept in bondage to the pain and deep wounds we have experienced. It might seem ironic that the person who shows no remorse for his wrongdoing appears to be at peace while the injured person is still held in bondage because he chooses not to forgive. With God’s grace, it is indeed possible to forgive and to be forgiven. Peace will then enter our hearts.

That may sound unlikely, but experience proves it to be true. For instance, a woman shared with me that she felt deep regret after her father passed away. I encouraged her to pray the Our Father prayer slowly and to ponder the words, especially, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The woman needed to forgive her father even after his death. She had been holding on to anger and bitterness, and the open wound in her heart had continued to fester throughout the years. After finally forgiving her deceased father, she felt God’s abiding peace again.

Forgiveness is a mercy — a great act of mercy. Saint Faustina understood the need for mercy and forgiveness. We can recall Jesus’ own words about loving and serving. As was mentioned earlier, Jesus instructs us to serve Him in others. He said, “[J]ust as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of the family, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). This holds true for forgiveness. Jesus taught Sr. Faustina, “My daughter, in this meditation, consider the love of neighbor. Is your love for your neighbor guided by My love? Do you pray for your enemies? Do you wish well to those who have, in one way or another, caused you sorrow or offended you? Know that whatever good you do to any soul, I accept it as if you had done it to Me” (Diary, 1768). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Forgiveness, a Continual Process

In my own life, I’ve learned that forgiveness is paramount in our spiritual lives. I’ve also had to forgive those who harmed me, including the crazed fiancé who held me captive and threatened to kill me and my family. After a very long and painful ordeal, it was only by God’s amazing grace that I safely escaped. I tell that story in my memoir, The Kiss of Jesus. I also share some important lessons from St. Faustina on forgiveness:

When meditating on the Cross of Christ, Saint Faustina realized the need to forgive others. In her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, she wrote, “He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart” (390). As tough as it is to forgive someone who hurts you, it is essential so that healing can occur and we can move forward in God’s redeeming grace. God grants the graces to forgive. We need to ask Him for them — again and again. Sometimes it feels easier to resist forgiving others because it can be so difficult and painful.

Forgiving someone is not accepting or condoning the harm that was done. It is forgiving the offender and becoming vulnerable before God to allow healing to occur in one’s own heart. If we let go of our anger or resentment toward the person who has harmed us, we can allow the floodgates of healing to pour in. This has been a continual process in my life.

We are a people who rely too much on our feelings, rather than placing our trust in God. So many times Jesus taught Sr. Faustina about the need for mercy and forgiveness, even if we had to overcome our feelings to do it. One time, Jesus taught His little bride a powerful lesson in forgiveness when He appeared to her at holy Mass. The young mystic recounted, “During Holy Mass, I saw Jesus stretched out on the Cross, and He said to me, ‘My pupil, have great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you.’” She answered, “O my Master, You see very well that I feel no love for them, and that troubles me.” Jesus said, “It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who have made you suffer and wish them well” (Diary, 1628). Powerful words for us all.

Doubting God’s Forgiveness

Sister Faustina shared a compelling story in her Diary in which she helped lift a huge burden from a fellow nun’s heart. It was just before she left for a new assignment after her perpetual vows. An elderly sister revealed the condition of her soul to Sr. Faustina. She had suffered interiorly for years, felt her Confessions had been bad, and therefore doubted God’s forgiveness. Sister Faustina asked her if she had ever shared her burden with her confessors. The sister responded that she had, several times. The sister recalled, “[T]he confessors are always telling me to be at peace, but I still suffer very much, and nothing brings me relief, and it constantly seems to me that God has not forgiven me.” Sister Faustina told her, “You should obey your confessor, Sister, and be fully at peace, because this is certainly a temptation.” Sister Faustina could not get away from this nun’s tearful pleadings, as well as the firm grasp she had of the young mystic’s hand! (Diary, 628).

Sister Faustina recalled in her Diary, “But she entreated me with tears in her eyes to ask Jesus if He had forgiven her and whether her confessions had been good or not.” Sister Faustina was firm. “Ask Him yourself, Sister, if you don’t believe your confessors!” The sister wouldn’t let go of Sr. Faustina’s hand. She wanted an answer. “[S]he kept asking me to pray for her and to let her know what Jesus would tell me about her. Crying bitterly, she would not let me go and said to me, ‘I know that the Lord Jesus speaks to you, Sister.’” Sister Faustina couldn’t get away. She promised prayers for the poor soul. “In the evening, during Benediction, I heard these words in my soul: ‘Tell her that her disbelief wounds My heart much more than the sins she committed.’ When I told her this, she began to cry like a child, and great joy entered her soul.” She continued, “I understood that God wanted to console this soul through me. Even though it cost me a great deal, I fulfilled God’s wish” (Diary, 628).

We absolutely need to take time to reflect upon the fact that Jesus is offended and even sad over our mistrust in His great mercy and forgiveness. No sin is unforgivable except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The Catechism teaches:

"Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” [Mt 12:31; cf. Mk 3:29; Lk 12:10]. There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. [Cf. John Paul II, DeV 46]. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss (CCC, 1864).

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to refuse to repent of sin, which separates one from God. In choosing to remain in sin, one is essentially refusing God’s mercy and blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told Sr. Faustina, “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy” (Diary, 723). He also said, “If someone causes you trouble, think what good you can do for the person who caused you to suffer” (Diary, 1760). We not only need to forgive, but according to Jesus, we should do good to that person. God will grant us the graces we need.

Something to Ponder

We read in Scripture, “Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times’” (Mt 18:21-22). Think about the many lessons Jesus taught Sr. Faustina. Take time this week to reflect deeply upon your own life. Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone who has tried to apologize to you? What was your response? What can it be with God’s grace?

Let us keep in mind Jesus’ instructions to His dear Sr. Faustina. We can ask ourselves His questions. Is our love for our neighbor guided by God’s love? Do we pray for our enemies? Do we wish well to those who have, in one way or another, caused us sorrow or offended us? Jesus reminded us “that whatever good you do to any soul,” He will “accept it as if you had done it to Me” (Diary, 1768).

A Merciful Action

Be sure to be merciful and loving to all you meet this week. Ask God to put those in your path who need much love and mercy. Pray for those who have hurt you and plan whole-hearted works of mercy to offer selflessly to those who have not been good to you. Yes, you can do these acts of mercy! But only with God’s grace. Pray that you will carry them out with a pure heart. Could you write that person a letter or email? How about a phone call? If that is not possible, you can still whole-heartedly forgive that person in your prayers to God. Consider going to the Sacrament of Confession very soon and confess any times you have failed to forgive, or refused to accept an apology or forgiveness — even from God!

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK

(To be prayed each day this week.)

Dear Merciful Jesus, please teach me how to forgive, and how to accept Your forgiveness. I love You, and though I am weak,
I want to be like You.
Mother Mary, guide me.
Saint Faustina, please pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You!
Amen.

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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