We have all been “wronged” at one time or another. Maybe by a neighbor, a schoolmate, a co-worker, a friend, a family member or even someone at church. I am not talking about the careless guy who cut us off in traffic or the clerk who was rude. I am talking about someone who sinned against us, whose unfairness had lasting consequences, who betrayed our trust, who took advantage of us, who perpetrated against us a grave injustice or some similar act.
I bet you do not have to think long about this. Who comes to mind for you?
When we think about them we are indignant. They can not be trusted. We hold a grudge. In the name of justice, we want to “get even.” We hope they suffer similarly – or worse. We warn others, “for their own sake,” of the treachery. It may be comforting to act like this, to right this wrong. We have judged another and are determined to extract our “pound of flesh.” In short, we allow ourselves to become Satan’s playground for a multitude of sins and do great damage to ourselves.
In holding this hate, we are breaking both of the two greatest commandments. First, we are not loving each other. Second, in treating this child of God, made in His image, with such contempt – we are not loving God. We are guilty of hating the sinner, not just his acts and responding with our own sins of hatred, detraction, possibly calumny and more.
If we do these things we are not in a state of grace. Not only that, we are not happy. We have chosen the lies offered by sin. Instead of bringing us joy, it has become a burden on us. All sins work that way and this is no different.
The burden we maintain, among other things, is through a lack of charity. We fail to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. If we knew the full story, we might find mitigating circumstances. They may have been given inaccurate information, be distracted by all manner of personal struggles, suffering themselves from the lingering effects of abuse or other tragedies in their life. Sometimes we even interpret the situation completely wrong.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is our explicit petition to God at every Mass, when we pray the Rosary and many other times. Think about it.
We are not called to love only those who are kind to us or even those we don’t know. They are no test of our faith. The real challenge is truly seeing the face of Jesus in those whom we have labeled as our enemies.
Forgiveness is an integral part of the faith of Catholics and all other Christians. One of the most poignant examples I can think of was the 2006 baseless murder of 5 Amish school girls and the serious wounding of 5 others. What a horrific event, yet while grieving deeply for the lost and injured children – the parents and entire Amish community responded with forgiveness and reconciliation.
On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, “We must not think evil of this man.” Another Amish father noted, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he’s standing before a just God.” Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.”
Consider also the story of Father Rob Spaulding. As a young seminarian, his actions one evening led to the deaths of 2 fellow students.
Christ commanded us “as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” If you hate someone, let it go. Forgive them for what they may have said or done. You don’t have to become their best friend, but you should pray for them with a loving heart. Finally, confess the sins you have committed through the hatred you embraced. The heavy weight of this self-destructive burden need not, and should not, be borne any longer.