Editors Note: The five previous article spoke of Lent as a time to “open wide our hearts to Christ”, a time “to listen to God’s voice”, a time “to repent in words and actions“, a time to “pray for miracles and a time “to give from the heart.” This article will look at Lent as a grace-filled time to receive forgiveness and to forgive others.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in kindness. God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger, has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our deeds deserve. As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful. As far as the east is from the west, so far have our sins been removed from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on the faithful (Psalm 103:8-13).
Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21-22).
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions (Matthew 6:14-15).
His master summoned him and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart (Matthew 18:32-35).
As we come to the end of this grace-filled Lenten season, here’s some good news: In Christ, all of our sins are wiped away — completely. When we come to him in repentance and confess our sins, he doesn’t just give us more time to make up for our sins. He doesn’t give us a list of suggestions and one more chance to redeem ourselves. No, he casts our sins away from us, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He washes away our failures and puts us on the path of freedom and victory. And he promises to walk with us, helping us along the way.
Take some time to ponder your heavenly Father’s generosity. Let the Holy Spirit expand your imagination so that you can envision the possibility of complete forgiveness, the hope of every spiritual debt being canceled with no questions asked. Let this promise soak into your heart, and as you experience God’s forgiveness, let it transform the way you think.
The more you understand and experience God’s radical gift of mercy, the easier it will be for you to forgive the people around you. Every Sunday when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask the Father to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In Matthew, Jesus follows the giving of the Lord’s Prayer with these words: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). Let these words pierce your heart.
Is there anyone you need to forgive — someone in your family, in your neighborhood, or even in your church? Is there a former colleague or former friend that you feel wronged you and you cannot forgive him? Don’t make the same mistake that the unmerciful servant made: “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart” (Matthew 18:34-35).
Ponder these words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Each year, Lent . . . stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters.” Look to your merciful Father, and you will become merciful yourself. Then forgive all those you have yet to forgive. As you do this, you will experience a great release of freedom and joy in your life.
“Father, shower me with your mercy today! Let me absorb deeply the reality of forgiveness you have given me, and give me the grace to do the same for others.”
Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing me to adapt meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.
[Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to reveal to you through them?
- When you repent and confess your sins, do you believe that “In Christ, all of our sins are wiped away—completely”? Why or why not?
- In the article, we hear these words: “The more you understand and experience God’s radical gift of mercy, the easier it will be for you to forgive the people around you.” Why do you think this is so? Has this been true in your life?
- The article ends with these words: “Then forgive all those you have yet to forgive. As you do this, you will experience a great release of freedom and joy in your life.” Forgiveness is a gift that none of us deserves. Are you willing to give this gift to anyone you have yet to forgive?
- Take some time now to pray that the Lord would give you the grace of a forgiving heart for all those who have wronged you in the past and who may wrong you in the future. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.