Do I forgive my enemies?
Good Friday is the most difficult day of the year. Jesus’ journey, which began with praise and adulation on Palm Sunday, now turns to the pain and sorrow of being falsely accused, condemned, mocked, tortured, abandoned by most of His followers, sentenced to death, crucified, and then dying and buried. I walk along this journey on Good Friday with Jesus through the Stations of the Cross and recognize the role that my sin played in Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
In the Gospel of Luke, we hear several of the last seven statements that Jesus made from the cross. His first words were “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus spoke these words of forgiveness as He suffered and endured the most terrible type of capital punishment known to man, suffering on our behalf, to offer His life so that we may live eternally.
As I contemplate Jesus’ words of forgiveness from the cross, I recall His words from the Sermon on Mount (Matthew, Chapter 5) (and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke, Chapter 6)), in which Jesus exhorts us to “love our enemies”. I admit that I struggle with this teaching. Loving my family and friends, those who are good to me, is something I understand. accept, and strive to carry out in practice, but loving those who have hurt me (whether intentionally or not) is a much more difficult concept to wrap my mind and heart around.
Like so many of us, I have been deeply wounded by an important person in my life. I have struggled to forgive this person for the pain and hurt I have suffered as a result of his actions. I have made a conscious decision to forgive this person but I find that the pain and hurt continue to arise and I often find myself back in the middle of that suffering. I make the effort to forgive again and again, but as the circle of pain and forgiveness continue, I wonder if I will ever be free of the pain and really forgive this person.
However, I have realized that forgiveness for serious harm is not a one-time thing, but an act of will that needs to be repeated over and over again (forgiving “seven times seventy”). I look to Jesus for an example of how to forgive my enemies as He forgave from the Cross those who tortured and crucified Him. I ask God for strength and courage to help me forgive my enemies. I am confident that, with God’s grace and support, I will continue to forgive and grant the same mercy that God has shown me when He forgives my sins and transgressions. Forgiving my enemies is not only a gift of compassion that I grant to those who have wronged me, but also a gift to myself so that I can stretch and grow in grace and mercy for my brothers and sisters. I believe that someday my efforts to forgive my enemies will heal the wounds within my heart.
How have I loved those who have harmed me?
Thank you, God, for forgiving my sins and granting me the grace to forgive those who have hurt me. On this day of Your Passion, please provide me with the strength to follow Your example and show mercy and love to everyone in my life, including my enemies, letting go of persistent grudges. Authentically Yours.