During Lent, the matter of sin – our own as well as the sins of others -- seems nearer to us than in other seasons of the Church year. Our self-examination finds us wanting and in need of forgiveness. In the process of discovering our own sin, we may also find ourselves smarting from wounds over the past year – perhaps longer – which come from the wrongs of others. Being disrespected or devalued is part of the journey, yet it is an experience we never get used to.
Recently a friend came to me to apologize for something he had done that had caused me no small measure of distress. As a serious Christian, he was following his faith-formed conscience in this matter. It was not an easy thing for him, and frankly it was not easy for me, either. But we both knew that a conversation needed to happen, as neither of us wanted to rupture our relationship.
Within this process, my friend told me that he was sorry about the harm he had caused, and he was also sorry that he put me in the difficult position of granting forgiveness. I am still affected by this insight. Unforgiveness is a vexing fault that can be so difficult to overcome. Our pride gets in the way of releasing others. Perhaps we like to use their wrongs to restock our supply of self-righteousness. By using scales stacked in our favor, we come out looking pretty good to ourselves! But we also know from experience that this is a false reassurance that does not really heal our wounds or free us in any lasting way. Despite our knowledge, it can still be hard to give up that wrong.
We often don’t deserve wrongs or injustices that come our way. But when they do come, harboring unforgiveness can become a serious barrier to receiving the good in our lives. Surely today’s Gospel shows us this point. When we focus too much on the wrongs of others, we can lose sight of the good that we have received, just like the debtor in the story. Conversely, when we do wrong to another, the wound we have caused may be greater than we realize. Will those we have harmed be able to muster forgiveness?
In this Lenten season, as we seek to understand our own faults, let us also seek to know and experience the depth and power of God’s love and forgiveness, so that we will not be bound by our wrongs or the wrongs of others. As the Psalmist reminds us,
This is not an easy thing. But it is our faith.
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