Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “There are many kinds of alms, the giving of which helps us to obtain pardon for our sins; but none is greater than that by which we forgive from our heart a sin that someone has committed against us.” The greatest gift we can give is to forgive another from the heart. Last week was Divine Mercy Sunday, where we reflected upon the mercy of God–that out of love for us, God eases our pain. God reveals his great power not with a press or a flex, but with a release. God gives us a break. He shows us mercy.
Today’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles, to the Gospel teach us that God’s mercy is revealed in the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is a funny thing. We so often seek forgiveness when we wrong someone and repent, but we are often so slow to forgive when someone wrongs us. But listen, forgiveness is the defining characteristic of a Christian.
Peter tells those who crucified Jesus, you did wrong! You handed Jesus over to Pilate. You denied the Holy One, you killed the author of life. We witnessed these things…we know they’re true! But repent and your sins will be wiped away. And Jesus after rising tells the apostles that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name. This is the Christian message: Our God is a merciful God. Our God wants to forgive any wrong we have done. Our God forgave even those who put him to death on a cross. That’s an amazing message. That’s amazing love. We are called to love. We too are called to forgive. How will anyone believe in the love and forgiveness of God if we are not willing to love and forgive.
I think it’s easy to appreciate what God has done on our behalf, but our goal is this life is to be like Him so that we can spend eternity with him. What better way to be like Him than to forgive like him?
This is what we say in the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, “forgive us our tressspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We seek to be forgiven, but the degree to which we will be forgiven is the degree to which we have forgiven others. Just take a moment now. Can you think of a single person against whom you harbor a grudge? Is there a single person–even if just one–that we need to let know that we love and forgive them?
I think families are usually the best place to start! We ALL make mistakes, we all fail, we all fall, and our merciful lord forgives us time and time again. The Gospel today teaches that we are witnesses of the love and mercy of God–but what kind of witness will we be if we can’t even forgive our family? What kind of forgiveness should we expect from God, if we are unwilling to forgive others from the heart?
Forgiveness isn’t about what others have done to us, but is instead about who we are, and the type of person we choose to be. And we are poor Christians indeed if we are unwilling to reach out in love to reconcile with others who have harmed us…because that’s what Christians do. We end the cycle of violence. We embrace the sinner. We forgive from the fullness of the heart. We are called to be instruments and examples of the way God loves and forgives the world.
Easy? No, of course not. But neither was the cross. And it is only through the cross that we can rise with him. Forgive today, and rise up with Him. Happy Easter.