God forgives us because He loves us, and our emotional and spiritual healing depends on it. God desires our salvation, our divine health and made this possible through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. Throughout the Gospels, we hear of countless stories of forgiveness and redemption. No doubt, forgiveness was central to Jesus’ public mission. Jesus forgives and heals the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8), forgives and encourages the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), and calls those engaged in sinful behavior to conversion and invites them to be his followers. Jesus forgives because he loves us and desires to restore our emotional and spiritual health. He doesn’t want us to fall into the trap of despair and self-loathing. He wants us to approach and to be in a relationship with him, knowing, loving and serving him.
It is important to know and believe God knows and understands the fear, weakness, or pride that was behind any harmful decision or act. God knows how emotionally free we are at any given moment, knows our history and our hurts. Jesus reveals God’s mercy and calls us to experience his love and forgiveness. Sometimes, however, our fear and pride keep us from approaching him. Do not let this stop you from saying yes to his offer of healing. Our sorrow and remorse for our behavior should move us to approach God and his healing love. Don’t stay trapped in the pit of despair and regret. Instead, He waits for us to respond with humility and love. The worst thing we can do is hide or withdraw from God’s company. How painful would it be for a parent to be avoided for days, weeks, months or years due to a child’s remorse or fear of approaching? No doubt, the parent would reach out and reassure the child of her great love, moving beyond the hurt and loving the child through the process, desiring healing, reconciliation, and hope.
Although sin ruptures our relationship with God, His love is constant, calling us back to Him and his mercy: his perfect, unconditional, forgiving, understanding, compassionate love, whether we feel worthy of it or not. God wants us to approach, humbly confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be open to transformation, all with God’s grace. If you are struggling with this, think of the conversion story of St. Paul. He is introduced to us as a blasphemer and a man of violence. Despite his failings, God called him to repentance and to be the greatest missionary of all times, redeeming his past and making him a new creation, an even better version of himself. Or, think of the woman who anoints Jesus. In Luke’s account, Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love,” (Luke 7:47). Jesus knew her heart and allowed her to approach and touch him. His act of forgiveness continued as he was dying on the cross, “’Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgave those who called for his death. This reveals his great mercy and understanding of human weakness, showing forgiveness was part of his mission to reveal God’s great mercy.
According to Scripture, however, there is one sin that cannot be forgiven, that is, the sin against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31). Pope Saint John Paul II defined this sin as the refusal to repent and the refusal to forgive. It is, in other words, the hardening of hearts or the refusal to allow God’s love and grace to work in us to bring about healing and reconciliation. On our own, we may be too weak or too wounded to be open to forgiveness. We need God’s grace to be open to the process. We must admit weakness and pride and say, “On my own, I cannot forgive. I need your grace, your supernatural offer of power and strengthening to move my will to be open to forgiveness. My own spiritual health and the spiritual health of the offender depend on it.” Forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. You need two consenting parties for the process of reconciliation to begin. Do your part and pray for the healing and conversion of the other.
God makes an offer, but He needs our cooperation in order to forgive and to accept forgiveness. Accepting forgiveness is healing, keeping us from focusing on the past and it makes us more merciful. Do not cease to approach God’s great mercy!
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© Josephine Lombardi 2017