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.
“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:
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.
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.
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