Thursday, June 28, 2012

Forgiveness

Humanly speaking, we often have a very limited idea of forgiveness. We often expect some sort of payment, restitution, reparation, punishment as part of forgiveness, but this is not the example God sets for us.

God forgives all sins, asking only the barest minimum of reparation. Since his dignity is infinite, the penalty of even the least sin ought to be infinite. What God really seeks is a purification of love. No reparation is really needed at all, if the love of the repentant one is purified. Such a love will usually make reparation voluntarily, but God is not sitting there, waiting for an exact balance to be paid for an offense. He'd be waiting forever, otherwise, because no one, except Jesus, is capable of paying remotely to the full.

Which is why Jesus died on the cross.

Wikipedia has this:

Forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as 'to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt'. The concept and benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, the social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive.

And the Catholic Church has this:

The Fifth petition begs God’s mercy for our offenses, mercy which can penetrate our hearts only if we have learned to forgive our enemies, with the example and help of Christ. – Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2862

The best way to obtain mercy is to be merciful. As Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7).

Failure to forgive others is a major human problem. Holding grudges is common. Failure to forgive routinely tears apart families, neighborhoods and even nations. Jesus stressed mercy and forgiveness in numerous ways such as when he asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him (see Lk 23:24). We pray to God that we may be able to forgive as much as we are forgiven.— U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, pg. 488

The Lord's prayer has us say, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This is the main thing the Lord asks of us: if we hope to be forgiven (when we clearly cannot make full restitution to Him) then we must forgive, and try, at least, release our offender, to not make demands for restitution or reparation. Waiting for that from our offenders could just make us crazy.

It is something we have to pray about, asking God to give us the grace to truly forgive, without expecting payment, all who hurt or offend us, without exception. In the end, it affords the greatest possibility of healing, and will be of greater help toward our receiving God's mercy.

C.S. Lewis wrote: Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.

Something to think about.

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