Learning to forgive

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Forgiveness of others is essential if we expect God to forgive us. AAP Image/Joel Carrett

I recently saw the beautiful television program about the families whose four young children had been killed in an accident but forgave the driver. How can we learn to forgive like that?

The program you mention was for all who watched it a great lesson in love and joy in a family, in the importance of faith in God and, as a result, in the ability to forgive someone who caused great harm. It was truly inspirational. How can we learn to forgive like that? It is not easy.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave us the Our Father, in which we say: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Immediately afterwards he added: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14-15).

These are strong words and a reminder that forgiveness of others is essential if we expect God to forgive us. We desperately want God to forgive us our sins, and we know he will if we are truly sorry, because he is ever rich in mercy. But then we must be ready to forgive our neighbour for his offences against us.

To exemplify this teaching, Jesus gave us the parable of the servant who owed his master 10,000 talents, an enormous sum, and when he pleaded to be given time to pay, the master forgave him the debt. Even after that the servant was unwilling to show mercy to a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount.

What Our Lord is telling us in this parable is that no matter how much someone may have offended us, it is nothing compared to how much we have offended God. And forgiveness of course means that we do not seek revenge. The more we love God, the easier it will be to love our neighbour and to forgive him. And we should ask God too to give us this grace of forgiveness.

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