Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Instead of giving up chocolate this past Lent, I went on a personal pilgrimage of forgiveness.
I made a list, and I didn’t have to check it twice, of all the people I was holding a grudge against. I was astonished by how long the thing was.
Some of those grudges were decades old. In fact, five of them went back to the beginnings of my adult life. Others were more recent.
It was my own spring housecleaning, and it was hard spiritual labor.
Some of these people were easy to clear off the list. They were the ones where I got crossways with them but they were good people and I’m a good person and we both did things we shouldn’t have done to one another. One in particular is someone I owe more than enough to clear the debt for him, just based on what he did for me before he started doing to me.
But others, especially the ancient ones, went way beyond a grudge, cut deeper than hurt feelings. These hurts that punched through to the marrow of my spirit were not so simple to put down.
That’s because forgiveness is not easy. When it deals with massive wrongs, it feels like a vulnerability, a weakness in the face of that which we must defend against.
During the time (which was most of Lent) that I was sick, I watched a video on Amazon Prime about a woman who had been on the Mengele Twins. She had nearly died from the things Dr Mengele did to her in the concentration camps. Her twin, even though she survived the camps, ultimately died of the injuries inflicted on her.
A few years back, this woman issued a public statement of forgiveness, not only of Dr Mengele, but of all the Nazis who killed Jews. This action alienated many of the other Holocaust survivors from her, including other Mengele Twin survivors.
She said something when she was talking about this that helped me a great deal. She said that she realized that she “had the power over these men” to forgive them. Forgiveness was an empowerment to her. Rather than make her vulnerable to her attackers, it was a power she had over them.
She had found a great truth, one that helped me.
Forgiveness and mercy are not weaknesses, even though the world may count them as such. It takes enormous strength to forgive. It requires sacrifice, work and hardship to be merciful. These are not cheap graces. They are hard fought, hard won and deeply healing gifts we give, both to ourselves, as well as those we forgive.
Without forgiveness we become ravening wolves to one another. Without forgiveness, we are all doomed to spend our lives dipping and dodging and hiding behind facades to protect ourselves from one another. Without forgiveness, we will purge one another in a useless attempt to purge ourselves of the demons we hide inside our own souls.
Without forgiveness, there can be no mercy. And without mercy, there can be no life.
I had been praying “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” in every mass, every time I prayed the Rosary. And each time I prayed it, there was a jab of conscience that reminded me I was praying a lie. I had not forgiven, and I did not want to forgive, certain people.
I nursed my hurt in the relatively petty instances of personal fallings out. But I fled in fear of weakness, of disarming myself in the internal struggle with the deeper and more outrageous hurts of the past. I had tried before, in many ways and at many times, to forgive these things, but the anger kept coming back, like a tree I had cut down that sprouted saplings around the stump.
When I began to work on sweeping my house clean, I found without surprise that personal grievances were easy, the deforming hurts, not so much. There are sins against ourselves that run so deep that we can not forgive them of ourselves. Only by the grace of God can we take up this power that we have over them and the harm they have done and wipe it clean with forgiveness.
Mercy, Shakespeare said, is twice blessed. It blesses the person who is given mercy. It also blesses the person who gives mercy.
Jesus asks us to bring Him the souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy … They are the living images of My Compassionate Heart.
In other words, when we show mercy, when we forgive from the heart, when we reach out to those in peril or suffering and lift them up with our loving care, we are being Christ to them.
Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena with us today. Bring before Him in prayer those you know who live lives of giving and forgiving. Hopefully, the day will come when we will all be able to count ourselves among them.
Today bring to Me the Souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy*,
and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death.
Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God:
Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.
*The text leads one to conclude that in the first prayer directed to Jesus, Who is the Redeemer, it is “victim” souls and contemplatives that are being prayed for; those persons, that is, that voluntarily offered themselves to God for the salvation of their neighbor (see Col 1:24; 2 Cor 4:12). This explains their close union with the Savior and the extraordinary efficacy that their invisible activity has for others. In the second prayer, directed to the Father from whom comes “every worthwhile gift and every genuine benefit,”we recommend the “active” souls, who promote devotion to The Divine Mercy and exercise with it all the other works that lend themselves to the spiritual and material uplifting of their brethren.