Grace to you!
C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, wrote: “Everyone says that forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”
As I minister in different settings and parts of the world, one of the most challenging experiences is bringing healing to those who are hurting or torn apart because of the harm done by another. The wound seems deep and unbearable if inflicted by a member of the family, a friend, a colleague or a close collaborator.
I realize, too, that many suppose forgiveness is an instant experience. Unfortunately, they realize that many days, months or even years later, one aspect or another of the past harm still hurts. After a roller coaster of “I have forgiven” testimony, they realize the excitement is short-lived as the hurting memory refreshes the conflict and bad feeling.
Reason is that no matter how dramatic an experience of healing from hurts happens, it takes time and consistent spiritual exercise of forgiveness until it no longer hurts. Forgiveness is a process and not a onetime thing. For some, the process can be completed in a short period of time; for others, and actually for many, depending on the nature of the hurt, it could last for months or even years.
I have one litmus test to measure if the process of forgiveness is complete. It is when no aspect of the offense or things done against us for which we are in pain doesn’t hurt anymore.
Let’s say somebody lied or discriminated against you. It hurts. Does it not? You prayed about it; and by the grace of God, you chose to forgive. Days later, you realize the memory still hurts.
Though you have made the choice of forgiving the person, your healing isn’t complete yet. There are some aspects of the event that you have not completely forgiven and, therefore, not completely healed. Continue to present that aspect or memory before the Lord in the prayerful spirit of forgiveness.
Pay attention to the Lord’s dialogue with Peter in regard to forgiveness as it indicates the process involved. Peter asked: “Lord how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” The Lord Jesus replied that it isn’t seven times but seventy times seven (Mt 18:21-22).
Not only does this specify the infinite number of times, as the Jewish understanding of seventy times seven indicates, it also points to the reality of the process of forgiveness. The Lord inspires us to walk with him (acknowledging our own weaknesses, since no one is without sin, no one hasn’t offended another) and consistently make the choice to forgive until we have been completely healed.
We all know this isn’t easy. If it is easy for you, you must be an incredible living saint or from another planet. However, the hurt isn’t easy to bear either.
Are you dealing with challenging situation(s) where you are hurting because of something done against you or against your loved one? I pray for you today, for the grace of healing from the hurt, as well as forgiveness, since it’s a Christian duty to forgive. It’s blessing, too, to do so.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Ordinary Time A: Readings: Ex 12:1-12; Mt 18:21-19:1]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.