Ever wondered why we need to forgive those who hurt us? Forgiving is tough; read on to know how it can be easily done.
If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:15)
As Christians, all our hope solely depends on one thing— forgiveness from God. Unless He forgives our sins, it is clear that we could never make it to heaven. Thank God for being a loving God who seeks reasons to forgive His children. He wants to forgive our sins, regardless of their severity and number. We simply need to acknowledge the wrong we have done, ask His forgiveness and willingly extend that forgiveness to others! So, we are writing an exam with a leaked question paper! Yet, most of us are struggling to fulfil this minimum criterion!
With our sinful nature, unconditional forgiveness is beyond our capacity. We need Divine Grace to do it. However, our purposeful choice and willingness to take steps are important. Once we take these steps, we will start experiencing the Grace flowing from Him.
So, how do we do our part? One thing we can do is seek reasons to forgive. Here are some of my reasons to forgive.
Answer 1: Because I deserve a healthy life
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you!—Lewis B. Smedes
Modern research has accepted what Scripture taught very long ago—the need to forgive! Forgiveness reduces anger, hurt, depression and stress and increases the feeling of optimism, hope and compassion. Forgiveness reduces hypertension. People who are forgiving tend to have not only less stress but also better relationships, fewer general health problems and lower incidences of the most serious illnesses–including depression, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Here, my focus is on my own wellbeing. Life is a gift from the Creator, and it is my responsibility to live a good life. Unforgiveness prevents me from enjoying a quality life. So, I need to forgive.
Answer 2: Because God wants me to forgive
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you— C. S. Lewis
This is very straightforward. I choose to forgive because God expects it from me. My focus is to be obedient to God. I depend on His Grace to try to forgive.
Answer 3: Because I am not better
There is no one who is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10)
In this approach, the focus is on my sinful nature. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. What would my response be if I were in his / her place? Many times, when we let go of our self-justifying thoughts and start meditating on occasions when we have hurt others, we start realizing that we are not better than others. This realization will make our job easier.
Answer 4: Because God has been using those hurtful situations for my good
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)
In the book of ‘Acts’, we read about the execution of Saint Stephen. Just before the execution, Stephen saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God! While the mob was stoning him, Stephen prayed for his executioners, asking God not to hold their sin against them.
Here we see another key element that could help us to forgive others—knowing the reward! Stephen saw the glory of God. After experiencing that, I believe that Stephen desired to be with God at the earliest moment. So, it might have been easier for him to forgive his persecutors as he could see them as the people who were helping him to reach his final destination sooner.
It is a human tendency to think only about the negative consequences of a previous hurtful incident. We might be surprised if we purposefully stop thinking in that way and start counting the benefits we received because of those incidents. For example, I might have lost my job because of the dirty politics of one of my old colleagues, but that is what led to me successfully apply for a better job! I can also count non-material benefits. Those incidents might have helped me to grow in my spirituality, or might have made me a stronger person and so on. Once we start realising this, it will be much easier for us to forgive those who hurt us.
Answer 5: Forgive him? For what? What did he do?
I will remember the sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12b)
A reason to forgive is required only when I feel the other person hurt me on purpose! If his action didn’t hurt me, the question becomes irrelevant.
Here is an incident from my friend’s life. Once he was about to go out for an important appointment wearing carefully chosen, well-ironed clothing. Just before leaving the home, he noticed his infant child crawling towards him with a beautiful smile. He immediately took her in his arms and cuddled her for a moment. After a few seconds, he felt wetness on his shirt and realized, with a shock, that the baby was not wearing a nappy. He was very disturbed and expressed himself angrily to his wife.
He changed his clothing and hurried out. On the way, the Lord started talking to him.
“Did you forgive her?”
“It was her fault… she should have been more responsible” he grumbled.
The Lord repeated the question, “I meant, did you forgive your child?”
“Forgive my child? For what? What does she know?”
On that journey, the Lord opened his heart to understand the meaning of ‘forgiveness’ in the divine dictionary.
Remember the prayer Jesus prayed on the cross; “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”. (Luke 23:34)
Ideally, we need to forgive as Jesus forgave, but this can be achieved only with abundant grace from the Lord. What we can do is to decide to forgive and raise our sincere desire to heaven. We are not short of reasons to forgive. Let us take these baby steps and ask the Lord to help us.
Dear God, I realize how deeply Your beloved son loved me that he came down to earth and went through unimaginable pains so I could be forgiven. Your mercy flows through His wounds in spite of my faults and failures. Help me to imitate Jesus by loving unconditionally even those who hurt me. And to experience the compassion that comes by truly forgiving. Amen
© serves in the Editorial Council of Shalom Tidings. Antony lives in Brisbane with his wife Vinita and children Abiel, Ashish, and Lucina.
Did you know you have an ever-present father? Read on if you are longing for his love. When you turn back Sixteen years ago I was facilitating a catechist class at Folsom Prison, a maximum security prison in California, preparing some of the inmates for Confirmation. An inmate named Juan, was telling his story. He shared that his biological father had abandoned his family when he was an infant and that his stepfather was aloof and abusive. In so many words, he said that his connectedness to a father of any kind was “messed up”. That might be the reason, he said, why he is drawn to his childhood faith--he is still seeking his father. I said, “Juan, God IS your Father and Jesus invites you to call him ‘Abba’.” “What does ‘Abba’ mean?” he asked. “It means ‘Dad’, ‘Papa.’ Jesus gives you permission to call God ‘Papa’,” I said. With tears welling in his eyes, Juan slowly and reverently recited the Our Father. He said it with such power and conviction that it seemed like he was saying it for the first time. The simplicity of the Lord’s Prayer and our own familiarity with it can mask what a phenomenal breakthrough it was in the history of religion. Jesus doesn’t address God as ‘Judge,’ or ‘Omniscient One,’ or ‘Great Power in the Sky’, or some other title that that would point to God’s transcendence. Instead, Jesus calls God ‘Father’ which evokes a sense of familiarity, reminding us how a child turns towards his or her father, trusting that they are loved by him. Filling the void If some experience their fathers as absent, judgmental, or harsh, it is possible they may project these qualities onto God. If they have grown to expect little of their fathers, they may also expect little or nothing of God. If their father was generally non-communicative, they may project that onto God. But Jesus taught us to call God “Abba” which means “my father” and evokes a sense of intimacy, of warmth, safety, and love. Such an understanding of God as loving parent can be found in the prophet Hosea, who captures this intimate Father-child relationship that Jesus invites us to: When Israel was a child, I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, With bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. (Hosea 11:1-4). What a tender image of our loving God as one “who raises an infant to his cheeks.” That’s the image that melted the heart of a prisoner named Juan and filled his eyes with tears. Many people go through life seeking their father. But Jesus tells us we have a father who loves us more than any earthly parent ever could. We simply have to come before him and with the simplicity of childhood say, “Abba!” Heavenly Father I surrender myself completely into Your hands just like a child, and I trust in Your Divine providence. Each day let me feel those invisible bands of love which draw me close to You. Amen.
In 1926, as the Cristero war began, Mexicans had suffered religious persecution for many years. Churches were confiscated and closed. Religious education and gatherings were banned. Religious and priests were forced into hiding. One night, plainclothes policemen staked out a home where they suspected people were gathering to receive Communion. A man approached and quickly flipped the lapel of his suit jacket, as if to show a lieutenant’s badge. “What’s going on?” he asked. “We think a priest is inside,” they replied. “Wait here while I check,” he commanded. They kept watch as he went in to boldly distribute Holy Communion to the faithful waiting inside. Father Miguel Pro was famous for his impersonations. Using a variety of clever disguises, and often in the dead of night, he bravely ventured out to baptize infants, bless marriages, celebrate Mass, hear confessions, anoint the sick and distribute Holy Communion. On more than one occasion, he penetrated a jail disguised as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to Catholics awaiting execution. Dressed as a stylish businessman, he even frequented the neighbourhoods of his greatest enemies to collect for the poor. Arm in arm with a young lady, or dressed in the rags of a beggar, he cheerfully brought spiritual and material relief to beleaguered Mexican Catholics at the risk of his life. Renowned for his ready wit, he laughed in the face of death, “If I meet any long-faced saints in Heaven, I will cheer them up with a Mexican hat dance.” After little more than a year of this clandestine ministry, his enemies were desperate to eradicate his influence. Falsely accusing him of an assassination attempt, he was sentenced to death without trial, immediately after capture. President Calles invited world media to witness his execution, expecting Father Pro to break down and deny his faith in front of the firing squad. Instead their photos captured him peacefully forgiving and praying for his executioners, refusing a blindfold and welcoming the bullets with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, shouting, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King!)
Want to be the best version of you? Take the first step! Missing Link My testimony is not about a powerful conversion, a life changing moment or a miraculous healing. It is a journey of small steps—a journey where I continually stumbled and fell, but God always picked me up and walked with me. I was born and raised Catholic. However, as many people could attest, this does not always amount to much. I participated in the Sacraments and went to Church regularly, but a personal relationship with Jesus was lacking. During my university life, whenever I encountered difficulties, I turned to God for comfort. He was always there for me, but I was not always there for Him. I put God in a compartment and I turned to Him only when I needed. He was certainly a part of my life, since I continued to go to Church on Sundays and pray frequently, but He was not central to my life. My own interests and desires were at the forefront of my mind. I never really paused to think about God’s will. Six months before graduation, my whole world turned upside down. I went through a really deep depression and for a long time, there was only darkness. The despair and hopelessness I felt is hard to convey in words, but I think that many of you reading this will have felt it at some point. When it happens, we go one way or another. We run towards God seeking refuge in Him or run away from Him in anger. Sadly, I chose the latter. I could not understand why God would put me through something so horrific if He loved me. For the best part of a year, I completely isolated myself. I stopped attending Church. I stopped going anywhere at all. I was caught up in feelings of shame and worthlessness. Thoughts like ‘you’re a burden’ and ‘everyone would be so much better off without you’ constantly invaded my head. My mind was like a prison that I just could not escape from. Thankfully, that was not the end of my story. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose”. This reassures us that, whatever may happen in our lives, God will work it out for our good. It also lovingly reminds us that we have been chosen by Him and we have a purpose through Him. This became evident in my life when I slowly returned to the faith with the help of various people and incidents that God surely orchestrated. Baby Steps This time, it was different. I attended daily Mass and retreats as I truly sought God’s love. However, my mental health struggles kept recurring. There was not any progression or recovery, so my future looked bleak. I was fed up with life constantly. The hope and peace Jesus promised seemed far away. As I said before, there was not a magical moment when things turned around for me as I would have liked. I had to wait for God’s timing. Nevertheless, some small steps helped me progress to a more positive state. My family is my biggest blessing. They have stood by me through the darkest times and I am truly grateful to God for them. About two years ago, we started reading the Bible for thirty minutes daily—something we continue to do. Even though it can be arduous, especially when delving into some of the Old Testament, it is definitely worth persevering. When we appreciate that the Bible is the living Word of God, we realize that there is an answer in there for everything. “Satan’s target is your mind and his weapons are lies. So fill your mind with the Word of God”—Greg Locke. This quote emphasizes how the devil uses lies against us as weapons. My struggles were mainly with my mind and I felt trapped. I wrestled with many sins that kept coming up again and again. The devil told me that I was unloved, broken and worthless when in actual fact, I am a child of God, who is infinitely loved. These are a few affirmations that the Word of God gives each of us: “I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works that He has prepared for me to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) “The Spirit of God, who is greater than the enemy in the world, lives in me.” (1 John 4:4) “I am chosen by God who called me out of the darkness of sin and into the light and life of Christ so I can proclaim the excellence and greatness of who He is.” (1 Peter 2:9) Flawless Love One of my favorite things about the Catholic faith is the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation). Being able to run to Confession and pour out my heart to Jesus has been immensely valuable. Receiving His forgiveness frees us from the guilt and shame which the devil condemns us to. The Holy Spirit helps us realize when we are on the wrong path, needing to repent and turn back to God. As long as we do this, there is nothing to worry about, although we may have to do it over and over again. The further we have strayed from God, the more He rejoices when we come back, just as the father celebrated when the prodigal son returned. This took me a while to realize and I still have not grasped it fully; I do not need to do anything at all to earn God’s love. It is an unconditional gift that He pours out on us. His love is not dependent on me or my flawed self. It is dependent on His nature which is all loving and merciful. Even through my darkest times and yours, this love gives us hope. In the book of the prophet Hosea, God proclaims that He will “transform the Valley of Trouble into a Gateway of Hope” (Hosea 2:15). This beautifully portrays what happened in my life. Through His love, God transformed my troubles into an opportunity to have hope and share that hope with you. Step by Step In hindsight, my pain led me to ultimately get closer to God. He is the only one who has truly been there for me through everything. He is not only the majestic, all powerful God, He is my comforter and friend. I have learned to be more accepting of God’s will and His timing. My life definitely didn’t pan out the way I planned, but that is not a bad thing because God’s ways are higher than my ways. “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’, declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Many small factors contributed over time to increasing my faith. It led me to a deeper appreciation and understanding of God. I also truly believe that the power of prayer has helped me survive life’s many challenges. I humbly request that you keep me in your prayers and that we all adopt a mentality of praying for each other. As my testimony shows, we do not necessarily have to do ‘big’ things to get closer to God. Small steps are all it takes. I hope you are able to take a small step towards God today. He is waiting lovingly with open arms. Dear God, I firmly believe and hope in You. Each day I rise up to take one more step closer to You. All I ask is for the grace to know You and love You. Let me be enfolded in Your loving arms. Amen
On August 18, 1996, when Mass concluded in the Church of Santa Maria y Caballito Almagro, a woman reported that a consecrated Host had been abandoned on a dusty candle holder at the back of the Church. Since it was not in a fit condition to be consumed, the priest followed normal protocols by placing the Host in water and storing it in the tabernacle. The following Monday, when the tabernacle was opened, the Host appeared to be suffused with a bloody substance. This was reported to Bishop Jorge Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis, at that time auxiliary bishop and soon to be archbishop of Buenos Aires). The Host was then moved to a secure location where the appearance of the Host continued to change until it was flesh alone. Archbishop Bergoglio led an investigation into the miracle after the host-turned-bloody was miraculously preserved for several years. On October 5, 1999, in the presence of the Archbishop’s representatives, a scientist took a sample of the fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. The origin of the sample was not revealed to the scientists. Dr. Frederic Zugiba, a well-known cardiologist and forensic pathologist, determined that the analyzed substance was real flesh and blood containing human DNA taken from the heart of a living person who had been tortured. He testified that “the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle which is responsible for the contraction of the heart. The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken. It is my contention that the heart was alive, since white blood cells die outside a living organism. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.”
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