Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest
“For greater things you were born.” (Ven. Mother Luisita)
Thursday, September 9th Lk. 6: 27-38… “To you who hear, I say…
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
FIVE WAYS TO PRACTICE FORGIVENESS by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV
The renowned English poet Alexander Pope stated: “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” How true this statement, but how difficult to carry out! At the same time, holding on to resentment is interior slavery. Whereas, truly forgiving is imitating God Himself and setting the captive free, and that captive is us!
Frequently and in unequivocal terms, Jesus has reaffirmed the indispensable obligation of all to forgive those who hurt us, pray for our enemies, and even to do good to them if the opportunity presents itself! Once again, easier said than done! Actually without God’s grace, to forgive those who have wounded us, and to love and pray for our enemies, far transcends and supersedes our natural powers. In sum, we need Gods’ grace to forgive our enemies.
Jesus is our example in absolutely all we say, and do, and even think in our daily lives! Indeed, He said it clearly: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”(Jn. 14: 6) Jesus first began by doing and then by preaching. First actions, then words. His very demanding teaching on forgiveness He lived to perfection at every stage and moment of His earthly existence.
What are some of the teachings of Jesus on mercy and forgiveness? Let’s meditate on a few of them. “Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful.” (Lk. 6: 36) In response to Peter’s generous willingness to forgive seven times, Jesus put no limits on it: “No, I say to you, not seven times, but forgive seventy times seven.” (Mt. 18: 22) This is hyperbole for the imperious obligation to forgive always, without limits or reservations.
Then Jesus made a Liturgical/Mass allusion. He said if you come to Church to present your offering and you know that your brother has something against you, simply leave the offering at the foot of the altar, reconcile with your brother, and then return to offer the gift. In other words, to celebrate worthily the Liturgy we should strive to be at peace with our brothers and sisters, and not be angry and resentful towards anybody.
Then in the most famous prayer in the world, the Our Father, Jesus gives us this very important command: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In other words, forgiveness from God is a two way street. If we want to be a recipient of God’s forgiveness, it is necessary that we forgive those who have hurt us.
Finally, the most eloquent witness of God’s forgiveness for all of humanity and for each of us individually, is Jesus hanging on the cross after having been scourged, crowned with thorns and spat upon, derided and mocked incessantly, and finally abandoned by all those He loved but three faithful ones, Our Blessed Mother, Mary Magadalen, and St. John. What is His response as He hangs on the cross ready to breathe forth His spirit? These words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Lk. 23: 34)
To help us imitate Christ and obey His command to forgive, let us expand on five concrete suggestions to help us on the pathway to forgiveness and mercy!
1. Beg for the Grace
To forgive our enemies, to pray for them and to love them goes far beyond our fallen human nature. We desperately need God’s overflowing and abundant graces. Saint Augustine says that we are all beggars before God. Therefore, we should beg fervently for the grace to forgive when we are put to the test. God will not deny us this sincere petition and important grace!
2. Forgive Immediately
When we are offended, most often the devil begins working on us right away fostering in our minds thoughts of revenge. Such ugly and vindictive thoughts can easily surface: “Get even!” “Teach him a lesson.” “Give him a taste of his own medicine.” “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Finally, “Don’t let him get away with this.” At best, this might express our sentiments, as a Protestant preacher once said succinctly: “We will forgive but only after we see him squirm like a worm in hot ashes, at least for a while.” All of these thoughts and feelings are diametrically opposed to the teaching of our Merciful Savior, and we must resist and reject them as soon as we become aware of them. Instead, if we respond to God’s grace of merciful forgiveness, and forgive immediately, there is a very good chance the victory will be ours. In sum, be quick to reject vindictive thoughts and even quicker to forgive, and to accomplish this, pray Hail Marys for this person whenever vindictive thoughts attack you, until those thoughts subside.
Another efficacious spiritual weapon that we have in our armory is that of humility. How? In this way! If forgiveness proves laborious and near impossible, then call to mind your worst and most embarrassing sins and the fact that God forgave you as soon as you begged Him for mercy and forgiveness. Most likely the offense you suffered at the hand of another is minimal compared to your most grave and embarrassing sins. This can be a very powerful tool to open up your heart in mercy and forgiveness for others!
4. Mercy is a Two-Way Street
Next, remember that receiving God’s mercy is not a one-way street, but rather a two-way street! Meaning? Jesus said: “Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful.” (Lk. 6: 36) Therefore, if we want to experience God’s infinite mercy in our lives, we must first extend merciful forgiveness to those who have offended us. Let us recall once again the prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We will be forgiven only as much as we forgive others! Saint Faustina Kowalska in the Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul asserts unequivocally that God’s greatest attribute or virtue is His Infinite Mercy. Followers of Jesus, the merciful Savior, must practice this sublime but very demanding virtue of mercy, if they desire to receive His mercy! Mercy is God’s love forgiving the sinner. Our decision to forgive our enemies is a clear sign of the victory of God’s grace and mercy in our lives.
5. Jesus Bleeding and Dying on the Cross for You
Possibly the most convincing motivational force to compel us to forgive those who offend us is the serious and silent contemplation of Jesus hanging on the cross, shedding every drop of His most Precious Blood to save all of humanity, but in particular your immortal soul! When you have been hurt and remain unwilling to forgive, lift up your eyes to contemplate Jesus as He hangs from the cross. Remember what He has already gone through: sweating Blood in the Garden, scourging at the Pillar, crowning with thorns, denied by Peter, betrayed by Judas, condemned and nailed to the cross though He was totally innocent, shedding every last drop of His Precious Blood, all for love of you.
What were the first words that issued forth from Jesus’ most Sacred Heart on the cross? Look, listen, contemplate, and pray! “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing!” (Lk. 23: 34) Meditating upon these words, coupled with the contemplation of His bitter Passion hanging from the cross and the shedding of His most Precious Blood, should be the most efficacious tool/hammer to crush your hardened heart that is apparently unwilling to forgive!
Finally, beg Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Mercy for the grace to forgive. No one ever suffered more than Mary, aside from Jesus! She witnessed her only Son suffer and die on the cross, brutally mistreated, yet she forgave them, even as her son did, from the depths of her Immaculate Heart. May Our Lady attain for us the grace to forgive, to be merciful, and so merit the title of a son or daughter of God the Father, brother or sister to Jesus Christ, and friend of the Holy Spirit in time and for all eternity! Amen.