Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 11th, 2011

Kevin Kersten, S.J.

Law School and Communication Studies
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Memorial of St. Clare
[416] Joshua 3:7-10a, 11, 13-17
Psalm 114:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Matthew 18:21-19:1

“Forgive from the Heart”

Today’s gospel (Mt 18: 21-35) is about forgiveness.  I’d like to reflect on the kind of forgiveness required when someone has really hurt you, especially when the hurt lingers.  It is a hard thing to forgive a thing like that.  Such a hurt often engenders a grudge.  Sometimes it can make you want revenge.  It makes you tense and puts your insides in turmoil when you meet or even think of the person who did the hurt.

Here are some examples of hurts like the ones I mean:  

  • When a close friend all of a sudden wants you out of his life.
  • When someone thoughtlessly or purposefully destroys something precious to you.
  • When you’ve been booted from a job you very much enjoy or very much need.
  • When a colleague betrays you.
  • When you’ve been used by another for that person’s gain and you suffer from it.
  • When someone seriously compromises the reputation, health, or well-being of a person you truly love.
  • The hurts of 9/11, the hurts suffered in Middle East wars, or any hurt requiring the hard effort and selflessness of true reconciliation.

To forgive hurts like these requires God’s help.  It’s a grace.  And it makes sense for a person who suffers them to pray for the grace to forgive when the pain from hurt, turmoil, holding a grudge, or desire for revenge lingers.

We have powerful ways and means to pray for the grace to forgive.

  • We have a sacrament devoted to it:  Confession.
  • We pray for it every time we say the Our Father.
  • We hear it in the words “. . . for the forgiveness of sins” when our wine is consecrated at mass.
  • Christ bears witness to it from the cross, saying “Father forgive them.  They do not know what they are doing.”
  • The whole of salvation history climaxes with the Incarnation and Pascal Mystery whose essence is love in the form of forgiveness.

To forgive is a matter of the heart, according to Our Lord in today’s gospel.  Like love, you cannot make it happen.   It happens in the hearts of saints, whose very makeup is a forgiving one, just as it was for Christ.  If you or I suffer a deep hurt caused by another, and our heart is not moved to forgive, Ignatius of Loyola would suggest we pray for the desire to forgive.

When we find it impossible to forgive, the one thing we know will help is God’s grace.  A grace is a specific act of God’s love for us personally.  It is specified to affect us where we need help, light, guidance, strength, courage, and even the desire to speak or act in real situations where it would be best in God’s eyes and in our own to do so.  Asking for the grace to forgive a particularly deep hurt, where doing so seems impossible, is a perfect case in point.  Nothing is impossible for God, and God wants to be there, in our hearts, helping us when we cannot alone bring ourselves to forgive those who hurt us.

No one can expect to go through life without being hurt by others.  We wish we could.  We wish our children could.  But we are all vulnerable to being used or abused, neglected or abandoned by others when they become greedy, ambitious or arrogant. When that happens, we are all called to be forgivers.  When it’s hard to forgive, we ask for the grace to do so.  As we mature in our Faith, the grace abides.  This in turn enables us to become men and women with the gift, rooted in experience, to help others who have been hurt:  to become apostles of reconciliation.   This is an enormously important mission, given the great need for reconciliation throughout our world, in any and every place the Lord may place us.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.
Let Your Friends Know About This Reflection By Sending Them An E-mail

Online Ministries Home Page | Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook