Forgiveness as Strength: Anna’s Inspiring Journey to Healing
In the Gospel today of St. Matthew, Jesus is telling us that there is a transformative power of forgiveness, and that we should never hesitate to forgive (or seek forgiveness) from the bottom of our hearts. This is a must-do for all of us if we want to achieve and enjoy the riches of God’s Kingdom.
When St. Peter approached our dear Lord Jesus Christ and asked Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Our Lord God answered him, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times”. Then Jesus further narrated a story about a servant who had not forgiven his fellow servant for failure to settle his debt, even if he himself was forgiven by his master when he failed to settle his own debt.
Several years ago, MUTC’s friend Anna faced a distressing situation at her workplace. She found herself a victim of another form of bullying, which involved the spread of false information about her personal and professional life, all orchestrated by one of her colleagues. Strikingly, Anna and this colleague were once office buddies,’ holding positions of equal rank. However, their amicable work relationship took a sour turn when Anna was promoted to head an office, and her colleague became one of her subordinates.
The root cause of their strife lay in professional jealousy, pride, and arrogance. This colleague’s behavior turned uncooperative and unproductive, creating a toxic work environment. Anna attempted to address the issue with her colleague, but her attempts were met with indifference, as if she were invisible. Despite these challenges, Anna chose not to engage in retaliation or direct confrontation. Instead, she turned to prayer, seeking strength from God to navigate each day in the office.
Anna prayed not only for herself but also for her colleague, beseeching the Holy Spirit to enlighten both their hearts and minds and fostering the possibility of reconciliation. She entrusted the entire situation to God, relinquishing control. Over time, Anna discovered solace in her daily prayers. Remarkably, she managed to forgive her colleague, even without the latter seeking forgiveness. Anna’s compassion led her to understand her friend’s manners towards her, freeing herself from deep pain, lasting emotional wounds, and the negative atmosphere that had enveloped her each day.
Going back to the Gospel, Jesus further narrated what the master did to the unforgiving servant which states: ‘You wicked servant, I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you? These words carry a profound message addressed to each and everyone of us. For those who haven’t delved into spiritual teachings, religion, or theology, this statement might be misconstrued to suggest a limit to God’s forgiveness. However, this is not the case. Our Lord Jesus’ response symbolizes God’s boundless forgiveness for our sins, akin to His immeasurable love, mercy, and compassion. It underscores that God’s forgiveness knows no bounds.
While God extends infinite forgiveness to us, we are likewise called to bestow such forgiveness upon others without limitations. In the Gospel reading, the Master demonstrated mercy and generosity to one of His servants. Yet, that servant remained insensitive to the plight of his fellow servant, which disappointed Jesus. God forgives us regardless of our faults and wrongdoings when we genuinely seek His forgiveness. Nevertheless, we are also expected to comprehend and forgive others.
When we forgive others, our Heavenly Father, in turn, forgives us. However, if we withhold forgiveness, we, too, will not receive it. This is the essential lesson from today’s Gospel—a reminder of the reciprocity of forgiveness that God exemplifies and expects us to practice.
Probably, almost everyone has been hurt by other people, could be those close to us (family or a best friend) or not. Being hurt particularly by someone we love and trust can be very challenging on our part. There could be mixed emotions, at times the positive ones are engulfed by the negative feelings (anger, animosity, hatred, etc.) and can be buried deeply in our hearts. A case in point was that of Anna at her workplace. Because she embraced forgiveness and decided to let go of anger, grudges and revenge, she was given the grace of peace and happiness that can be found through faith and compassion.
Forgiveness, in today’s modern world, stands as one of the most challenging acts of grace. In an era where pride often reigns supreme in our hearts, the ability to let go, release resentments, and extend forgiveness becomes a profound testament of strength and humanity. It requires us to rise above our egos, to seek understanding instead of vengeance, and to choose love over bitterness. While the path to forgiveness may be steep, it ultimately leads to inner peace and healing, transcending the barriers of pride and ego that often divide us.
As the saying goes, forgiveness is often easier said than done. When someone wrongs us, it can be challenging to release our grip on the hurt and move forward with our lives. Our natural instinct might push us to seek revenge against those who have insulted or injured us. But is this truly the right way to respond?
Harboring ill will or resentment towards another person typically exacerbates the situation. It not only prolongs our own suffering, encompassing pain and hatred, but it also takes a toll on our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It’s essential to release these negative emotions and hurts we’ve been carrying in our hearts and entrust them to God. We can pray for both the person who has wronged us and for ourselves, asking for God’s grace to grant us inner peace, similar to what Anna did.
Pope Francis wisely reminds us that when we struggle to forgive others, we should turn to the Lord for assistance in forgiving. This reflects the profound significance of God’s enduring forgiveness, which assures us that seeking and extending forgiveness is possible with divine guidance, regardless of the circumstances.
So, let’s emulate what Anna did to solve her problem, that is, to let go of past negative experiences, relinquish those lingering hurt feelings, grudges, and bitterness. Instead, seek God’s mercy, allowing Him to grant us more opportunities for personal growth. Entrust everything to God, including our fears and worries, as He is the one who will handle them for us. Remember the wisdom of the saying, ‘Let go and let God.’
Dear Lord God, we, as sinners, humbly seek Your mercy. Shower us with the gift of repentance and forgiveness. Empower us to pardon the transgressions committed against us, just as we hope to be forgiven by those we have wronged. O Lord, cleanse our hearts of sin and free us from the shackles of guilt. Transform us into obedient children, fostering love and reverence for You. Lead us away from temptation, shielding us from evil’s grasp. Amen.