'Be merciful and compassionate as your Heavenly Father is merciful and compassionate.'
This line from my pastor’s homily struck me on Sunday and has been knocking on the door of my heart ever since. Forgiveness has been a big theme for me this Lent.
It's been a threefold process: thanking God for forgiving me, forgiving others, and forgiving myself. Each one of these can be really hard to do, and earlier in Lent I committed to embracing each one whenever the opportunity arose.
Each morning, I've started my day by saying a simple prayer.
'Jesus, thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for Your grace. They are new each morning. Help me do nothing today that I'm not doing because of your mercy and by your grace.'
Have you ever thought about that? God loves us first thing in the morning. Even before we brush our teeth! Crazy. But true! He never stops loving us. What a gift! So what are you going to do with it?
Thanking God for His forgiveness can be challenging for a few reasons. The first is that sometimes we forget it! We live in despair and shame. We beat ourselves up. While sin is serious, God loves us no matter what! He loves us so much that He calls us out of our sin! Remember, if God challenges you and makes you uncomfortable, if He calls you to give up something sinful, it's because He loves you too much to let you remain in sin.
Another reason is that we forget we need forgiveness. Especially in times when everything seems to be going our way, sometimes we forget we're fallen and need a savior. The best way I've found to be strong is to be aware of your weakness and never cease asking Christ for strength.
Forgiving others can be difficult, especially when they've really hurt you or let you down. As the English poet Alexander Pope once wrote, 'To err is human; to forgive is divine.' Yes, you've been hurt. Yes, you're feelings matter and there may be validity to them. You're called to forgive . . . and sometimes you really won't want to.
Bring this to the Lord. How is He asking you to forgive someone as He has forgiven you?
Perhaps the toughest part of forgiveness is forgiving ourselves. This Lent, I've made specific efforts to forgive myself for past wrongdoings. I've reflected on what lead me to those sins or mistakes. I've confessed them and have felt Jesus take them off of my shoulders. The freedom that comes with Jesus' forgiveness is life-changing. But we have to let it change our lives. We have to accept that He forgives us. He doesn't hold a grudge, so who are we to hold one?
Now this is all pretty basic. I'm sure you've heard this entire blog before. But just as God's mercy is new each morning, so are the opportunities for mercy. We can show mercy and receive mercy each day. And sometimes we all need a little reminder.
So brothers and sisters, live in the mercy of Jesus Christ. Forgive others as you have been forgiven. Reflect on where you'd be if not for grace. Thank God for His mercy and receive it. The path to sainthood awaits you. Take a step.