November 4, 2018
So you will want to say to me that all this talk about forgiveness is just fine. But what about repentance and contrition and justice?’
It is certain that one who cannot admit to wrongdoing will not seek forgiveness; neither will the one who deems himself justified in doing evil; nor the one who does not understand the hurt brought about by his deeds. In these cases it can certainly seem that a willingness to forgive is a waste of energy.
But, if you think about it for a moment, you will realize that no one will seek forgiveness unless there is hope for the same. No one will believe in mercy, unless mercy has been offered. No one will think reconciliation is possible unless there is someone who is willing to partner in the work of reconciling.
The wrongdoer who remains obdurate in his wrongdoing stays locked in the world created by his misdeed. There is no other future for him than the one that spins off from his sins. He cannot become better than his worst day or deed. But if he can find repentance in his own heart and mercy in the heart of another, then there can be something new and different – for the both!
But if forgiveness is possible only when certain conditions have been met -- after justice has been served or repentance has been expressed -- then the one who was wronged remains tethered to that worst day in the wrongdoer’s life; the injured party holds on to the injury as defining himself. And he will not let go of that self-definition until someone else has acted – the guilty party.
But if the injured person decides to forgive and to leave a trove of mercy at the doorstep of the one who did him wrong, then he has no unfinished business with that person, seeks no further revenge or retribution or even interaction with the criminal. Only then he can move on into a new future that is not in any way determined by of the past he shares with the one who hurt him. His new life depends, not on the action or punishment or anything else in the life of his nemesis. He creates it by the simple act of forgiveness.
Whether the wrongdoer seeks that trove of mercy, whether he accepts it, this is not the concern of the one who forgives. Having freed himself of an old and injured life, he frees the one who injured him to go in freedom wherever he wills to go.
As soon as Maria Goretti forgave Alessandro, she had no unfinished business with her rapist/murderer. She became free to devote her attention to her immanent meeting with God.
Jesus’ prayer for the forgiveness of his killers set him free to make of his dying an act of obedience to his Father – not my will but thine – and of his last breath prayer of trust – I put my life in your hands. These are not just edifying thoughts about Jesus as a nice guy; they reveal the truly divine power of mercy to bring about new life.
Really and truly and obediently yours,