What if Jesus had told Peter to forgive his enemy seven times, instead of seventy times seven times? (Matthew 18:22)
Seven times would have still been quite generous. But we don’t have just a generous God, we have an extravagant, magnanimous, glorious and infinitely loving God. And He desires that we imitate Him as much as possible with our entire being, created so lovingly in His Own Divine Image.
I was thinking these thoughts today during Eucharistic Adoration….thoughts about how grateful I am that we have a God Whose Goodness is beyond all comprehension.
“Seek the last place….” But Lord, what about a place in the middle? No compromises. Our God is Perfect Holiness, and Jesus calls us to “be perfect, therefore, as Your Heavenly Father is Perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Returning to my original thought, I began to focus on forgiveness. I tend to think this is one of my stronger areas. I don’t like to hold grudges. That’s not because I am particularly charitable, but more because I really crave peace in my life, and so I try to avoid ongoing disagreements or being estranged from others.
Gazing at the beautiful white Host in the monstrance before me, I began to go over in my mind the people in my life who have hurt me the most. I ticked through them all and then said, “Yes Lord, I think I have forgiven everyone.”
All alone with Jesus, I thought of how He forgives. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
And then gently, Jesus reminded me that although it is true that I hold no grudges, I do still find my mind sometimes wandering back to those hurtful places where I have been previously wounded….especially if that person has recently offended me again.
But Jesus wants Perfect Forgiveness….or at least a constant striving for it in this life. We are still holding on a bit whenever we re-visit the memory. An offense deliberately recalled is a debt not completely cancelled.
Jesus reminded me how much I rejoice that He forgives me so completely, even “forgetting” my sins, and He, Who has forgiven me so much, asks that I endeavor to generously forgive others the trifles committed against me. For their debt is so tiny compared to mine. I should consider it a privilege to have something to forgive, in imitation of my Lord.
And Jesus, without Whom I can do nothing made me understand that He will heal the painful memories together with me, for I must do my part and restrain my mind from returning to past hurts. And He will do the rest.
In the midst of the above, I read a beautiful passage from Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life:
Forgiveness is also a primary manifestation of compassion and love, for it is truly a gift of self. Recall that we need to forgive when someone has truly done us an injustice. In a way, we own the degradation and the pain of that injustice; it is like a debt that we can hold onto forever (even though the other person might not acknowledge it or intend to rectify it.)
When we forgive, we let the debt go, and it is like giving away a prized possession, or , better, an important part of ourselves. When we do this it truly manifests the highest degree of generosity for the good of the other and even the human community. This is love………It puts the other ahead of us.
Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life
By Father Robert Spitzer, SJ
Kindle edition, Location 735-736