There is the ancient
adage: to err is human and to forgive is divine. In fact, we offend and hurt others many a
time, each day. The just man sins seven times a day. The Lord asked us to forgive, not
seven times, but seventy times seven.
Forgiveness is an act of the will by
which you decide to think and feel that the other person did not know or understand, or
did not willingly do the thing that hurt or offended you. It is not to react according to
the painful action of others, which is an act of emotion.
Forgiving is not the same as forgetting,
which is an act of the memory. Memory is replaying the record and forgetting is not fully
under our control. We may forget a thing at a particular moment, but remember it at
another time. Even those things that we thought were lost forever come at an unguarded
moment and we wonder. Forgetting is not the same as forgiving. Like loving it is an act of
the will, a decision not to hurt ourselves nor to hurt the other who did not do the right
Graciella Martinezs 15 year newly
evangelized son was executed by Castros Batista regime in front of her very
eyes. The boy had told her, as she hugged him last: "Dont hate them. Forgive
them, Mamacita. Forgive them, or they will be the victors". But "In my heart, I
vowed to revenge. I would get even with the assassins" she says. Ten years went by.
"I forgave only when I saw how destructive my hate was, how it consumed my energies,
crippled my friendships and disabled any good that I wanted to do. I wanted to be freed
from the prison I had erected in my life. I saw at last the truth of my sons last
words that when we return hatred to those who hurt us we fall into playing their game
according to their rules and do them the great favour of suffering ourselves".
How difficult it is to forgive, yet how important.
Abigail Van Buren, a journalist, once
asked women-readers if any had forgiven an unfaithful husband. "What a grand and
glorious thing it is to rise above the pain" one wrote. Forgiveness is the key to the
History of salvation, though we cannot understand all the actions of God in this history.
We see, for example, the punishment of God for the sins of the people and Gods
repenting of his actions and punishment. God is always kind and forgiving.
It is not always the offence that hurts,
it is our attitude. That is why we can get terribly hurt when someone whom we hate or
don't like, does something displeasing to us. But if someone whom we like does the same
thing, we don't feel any pain. Also it depends on the individual, whether he is happy or
David is a great example of forgiveness.
David had great victories, in favour of Saul. All praise him for it. However, Saul was
very jealous and wanted to kill David at any cost. As Saul "sat in his house with his
spear in his hand, and David was playing the lyre. And Saul sought to pin David to the
wall with the spear; but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And
David fled, and escaped" (I Sam. 19: 9f).
Later when Saul returned from
following the Philistines, he was told, "Behold, David is in the wilderness of
En-gedi". Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to
seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats Rocks. And he came to the
sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now
David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. And the men of David
said to him, "Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, Behold, I will
give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to
you. Then David arose and stealthily cut off the skirt of Sauls robe. And
afterward Davids heart smote him, because he had cut off Sauls skirt. He said
to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my Lord, the Lords
anointed." So David persuaded his men with these swords, and did not permit them to
attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave, and went upon his way". It is very
interesting to read how later David explains to Saul how he has been so kind to him, nor
has he any enmity with him (I Sam. 24: 1ff).
The chapter 26 is more dramatic. Saul is
surrounded by his army and is asleep in between. One of the companions of David begs him
to permit him to pin Saul with the spear. "God has given your enemy into your hand
this day; now therefore let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I
will not strike him twice"
David took the spear and the jar of water from
Sauls head; and they went away. No man saw it, or knew it, nor did any awake; for a
deep sleep from the Lord had fallen upon them.
In II Sam. 16: 5 14 we see one of
the servants of Saul cursing David. And the reaction of David is: "If he is cursing
because the Lord has said to him Curse David, who then shall say, Why
have you done so? . . . Let him alone, and let him curse for the Lord has bidden
him. It may be that the Lord will look upon my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me
with good for this cursing of me today." A similar story is told of Buddha. A man was
abusing Buddha, who called the man and asked: If a person gives you a gift and you don't
take it, to whom does it belong. The man answered "to the one who gives it".
Then Buddha answered, keep your gift for yourself.
Let us read Sirach 28: 1-4: "He that
takes vengeance will suffer vengeance from the Lord, and he will firmly establish his
sins. Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned
when you pray. Does a man harbour anger against another, and yet seek from healing from
the Lord? Does he have no mercy toward a man like himself, and yet pray for his own
sins?" The Law of retaliation of the Old Testament of course was not taken literally.
If it was followed so many, if not all, would be blind and toothless.
Jesus not only came as forgiveness from
the Father, but constantly taught that we should be forgiving others if we want to receive
His forgiveness. We read in the sermon on the Mount: If you are offering your gift at the
altar, and thee remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift
there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and
offer your gift". "There you remember that your brother has something against
you" the simple question to pose would be how do I know that my brother
has something against me? Is it not judging him rashly and Jesus also tells us not
to judge? (Mt. 5:23f).
The instruction of Jesus in Mark 11:25 is
very familiar to 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". In the Our Father, Jesus tells us that the measure of forgiveness
that we receive is the measure we forgive others: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive
those who trespass against us." A fine and simple law of proportion. If you forgive
men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not
forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt.
God is all forgiving. The best example of
extreme forgiveness is that of Jesus Christ. Even when we were yet sinners God sent his
only son Jesus practised what he preached. Hanging on the cross he prayed: "Father
forgive them for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34). The first martyr, Stephen,
when he was being stoned to death, repeated the same message: "Lord, do not hold this
sin against them" (Acts. 7:60). St. James insists the same message: "For
judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over
St. Paul has very strong sayings on the
matter. "Put on then, as Gods chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion,
kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another, forgiving each other,
as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Col. 3:12-13). "Bless
those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them" (Rom. 12:14). "Repay no
one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all" (12:17).
"Then let us no more pass judgement on one another, but rather decide never to put a
stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother" (14:12). "To have lawsuits
at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be
defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that even your own brethren" (I
The teaching of St. Peter is very hard to
accept and live by: "For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for
it you take if patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it
patiently, you have Gods approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ
also suffered for you leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He
committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile
in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly
Again in 3:17f: "It is better to
suffer for doing right, if that should be Gods will, than for doing wrong. For
Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might
bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit".
Commenting on the words of Jesus: Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you,
Martin Luther King said: When Jesus said Love your enemy, he meant every word of it.
We never get rid of an enemy meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid
of enmity" (Readers Digest, Aug. 1982, p. 97).
Forgiveness makes you feel good even when
you see others werent good to you or rude to you. We could exemplify non-forgiveness
with the children throwing stones at each other. If one hits at his companion, the other
could just go off as if nothing has happened. That would be the best thing to do. Or get
even with him by hitting him back. At least the offended party is safe. The worst is to
pick up the stone, keep it in the pocket and hit oneself whenever you think that you were
once hit. Is it not un-forgiveness that hurts us so much?
If we wish to live and enjoy our life to
the full, one of the essential things that we have to do is to learn to forgive.
Fr. Walter Lobo, OCD,
Shellim, Loliem-Polem post