Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive a brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Matthew 18: 21-22
It is important to recognize that forgiveness is a metaphysical as well as personal virtue. Each moment of our lives involves forgiveness. It is essential to being born and to dying. It comes into being and then allows us to grasp the new moment in its immediacy. Although we cannot hold on to the past in its immediacy, we can choose to allow it to bring us joy or unhappiness. Past failures can keep us from pursuing future adventures. They can also teach us how to pursue the future with greater wisdom.
Forgiveness is based on the ability to transform the meaning of the past in our lives today. God does not place painful events in our lives to test our faith, but God allows us to experience the circumstances and consequences of our actions and the actions of others to deepen our awareness of the brokenness in the world and to claim our vocation as a partner in God's healing for the world.
Forgiving is not forgetting but it is transforming the meaning of the past in the present moment. Medical studies have shown that persons who let go of negative events experience a greater sense of well being than those who continue to hold grudges because of past injustices. In authentic forgiveness, the past event is not forgotten but experienced as an opportunity for greater freedom, love, and creativity.
Forgiveness is a gentle process. It cannot be rushed. To find wholeness, we must fully experience our anger, hatred, depression, and despair and then move on to healing in our lives through our interaction with others and perhaps the counsel we may receive from trained and wise persons in the our lives and in the mental health field.
In the end, forgiveness is a form of divine healing. As we embrace divine forgiveness in our lives, our memories and actions are transformed and made whole. To forgive is not only to affirm our value as God's beloved children but also to recognize that same holiness in those whose actions temporarily disguise God's presence.
Think about these things:
I forgive myself and claim God's love for me.
By God's forgiveness, I am free from past pain and injustice.
I claim God's forgiveness of myself and others.
God is with me as I seek to forgive particular persons.
Holy One, who is open completely to our joy and pain, you know our hearts and intentions. You know where we have missed the mark, chosen evil over good, and comfort over justice. You know where we have hurt others as well as ourselves. We confess our alienation and brokenness and ask that your forgiving love give us a new start. Show us where we have gone astray, and give us the courage and insight to begin again and again. In the name of the Healer Jesus. Amen.