What is it that we are sacrificing for Lent? We all want to have stronger faith. However, this involves becoming stronger in our holiness. We have been made holy by the Holy Spirit, whom we received in fullness during our Baptisms, but learning to live out who we really are is not easy in today's world. And yet it is essential for increasing our faith and participating in the miraculous power of God.|
Holiness requires struggling against the easier way of life that our flesh nature prefers. It requires effort, for example, to remain in the spirit of love even while others commit sins against us. Our faith is tested in how we handle those we dislike: an ex-partner, the employer who fired you, or the friend who betrayed you with no desire to make amends.
In the "Our Father" prayer that Jesus gives us he puts special emphasis on forgiveness. By asking God to forgive us for our sins the same way as we forgive those who have sinned against us, we are taking our holiness very seriously. The measure of mercy we give to others is the measure we are asking God to give us. Yet, we usually prefer to receive more mercy than we give?
It is not that God withholds forgiveness from us like a bribe to make us become more forgiving -- he already forgave us 2000 plus years ago when Jesus died on the cross on our behalf. The fact is, we separate ourselves from God's forgiveness whenever we refuse to forgive. Often we find it hard to believe, deep inside, that we deserve to be forgiven any more than we believe someone else deserves our forgiveness.
Jesus is challenging us to love ourselves at a holier, healthier level. Giving forgiveness frees us to enjoy life; it frees us from dependence on what others do or do not do to us. And by entering the world of forgiveness, we open ourselves to all of the love that God has for us.
Yes we may not always enjoy forgiving others, especially when they are not remorseful. Jesus wanted to avoid his cross, too. But the only way to resurrection is through the cross. To grow in faith, we have to stay close to Jesus in both good times and bad, when his hands are reaching out to us with healing love and when his hands are nailed to the cross. By choosing to forgive those who show no remorse, we are united to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us: We are forgiven, we are saved, we are healed.
Identify the people you have not really forgiven yet. Make the decision to forgive them, then meditate upon the pain that Jesus suffered in love for you. Realize how much compassion it took for Jesus to do that for you, even though you did not deserve it. Remind yourself that he continues to love you this much every day, no matter what, whether you are sinning or not.
Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes