There are people who find it hard to forgive the offenses done against them simply because the pain still remains. They want to forgive already. In fact, they are hoping that forgiveness will just come at the right time. They are waiting for the right moment. But that moment would hardly come. Years pass by and still they find themselves unable to forgive.
If pain (or its absence) is our basis for forgiveness, then, we can hardly forgive those who offended us. It is because pain still lingers. It takes a long time for the pain to vanish. Besides, the pain is provoked by the memory of the offense. And since we cannot eradicate our memory (as it is part of our being), we can hardly remove the pain.
Forgiveness should be based, not on the disappearance of pain, but on the act of the will. To forgive is a decision that despite the pain, I let the offense pass and move on to reconcile with the offender. In the Visayan dialect, the term for forgiveness is so graphic: “pasaylo” (gipasaylo ang sala) – we let the sin pass without taking it against the offender anymore.
This is God’s way of forgiving us: He condemns the sin but forgives the sinner. St. Thomas Aquinas said that it is proper to God to forgive sins. We know the famous saying, “To err is human; to forgive divine”. We come here every Sunday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist because we want to receive the Body and Blood of Christ – the food that will slowly divinize us and transform us into the Body of Jesus. Whenever we receive Holy Communion, we are slowly becoming like God: we become divine; God divinizes us. But Aquinas said, if we want to become divine, we have to forgive our offenders. Forgiveness makes us become more divine: the more we forgive, the more we become divine.
However, in order to forgive our offenders, we have to ask the Lord the graces of courage, humility and compassion. This is the message of all our readings today. We shall reflect on the courage of Nathan and the humility of King David (in the First Reading) and in the Gospel, the compassion of Jesus, through whom, St. Paul said in the Second Reading, we are forgiven and redeemed.
In the First Reading, we hear how the Prophet Nathan confronted King David regarding the king’s sins of adultery and murder. “You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword (of the Ammonites) and took his wife for yourself”. It takes so much courage to bring someone to the awareness of his or her faults and sinful ways. But it is a commendable act that every Christian should do, as part of our responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. We all have the obligation to give fraternal corrections to our erring brothers and sisters in the Lord. But it takes a lot of courage to do so, because we run the risk of breaking the relationship with these people once we point out to them their faults.
It also takes a lot of courage to be aware of our own faults and sinfulness. In the same way that we cannot cure an alcoholic person unless he or she acknowledges and admit his or her alcoholism, we cannot ask or receive forgiveness unless we are courageous enough to admit our faults and sins. Whenever we go to Confession, we show great courage by accusing ourselves of our sins. The Lord looks at our courage and grants us His forgiveness.
Courage is also what we need in order to say to the person offending us: “I forgive you”. We need this courage to overcome first ourselves, that part of us that clamor for justice or even vengeance. Let us be courageous enough to silent that vengeful part of our persona and to tell ourselves: “That’s enough. Keep quiet. I am now going to forgive this person”. Whenever we forgive our offender, we set free that person from the imprisonment of guilt. But we also free ourselves from the clutches of pride and anger. Forgiveness sets us free and brings us enormous peace of mind and heart.
Still in the First Reading, we admire the humility of King David. After having been rebuked by Prophet Nathan of his sins, he simply said “I have sinned against Yahweh. Nathan answered him, Yahweh has forgiven your sin; you shall not die”. St. Josemaria Escriva noticed wisely the difference between the human and the divine court of justice. In the human court, the accused who admits guilty of his crime is condemned. But in the divine court – the confessional – the guilty who accuses himself of his sins is acquitted.
Oftentimes, when people point to us our errors, our tendency is to justify ourselves. Only when we see we cannot escape anymore will we admit our faults. It takes a lot of humility to say “I’m sorry, it’s my fault”. In the Sacrament of Confession, we have to be humble enough to admit our mistakes for no forgiveness can be given to those who do not humbly repent. This is what we call the sin against the Holy Spirit. That’s why we don’t need to justify our sins. We simply tell them to the confessor by naming them and the times we have committed them. Humility is strength, not a weakness. When we are humble, God will forgive our sins as He did to King David.
To forgive our offenders also requires humility. Have you noticed that when you refuse to forgive, you feel that your heart is swelling with pride? And you are not at peace! Your heart becomes like that balloon that becomes bigger as we inflate oxygen into it. Every time you refuse to forgive, you inflate your heart with the oxygen of pride.
Lastly, St. Paul, in the Second Reading, tells us that we are forgiven not through the power of the Law but through the Grace of Christ Jesus crucified. And in the Gospel, we see this truth exemplified in the compassion of Jesus who forgives the sinful woman simply because she shows more love. Jesus’ criteria for forgiveness is easy to accept: “More sins, greater love, more forgiveness”. The woman’s sins are forgiven because of her great love. “But the one who is forgiven little, has little love”.
The reason we fail to show more love to Jesus is that we fail to be aware of our many sins. Little awareness of sins means little awareness of forgiveness; hence, little manifestations of love. Therefore, to love God more, let us be always aware of our sinfulness and the countless times the Lord has forgiven us. Our awareness of God’s forgiveness will lead us to be more merciful and forgiving with others.
My dear friends, let us be more divinely in our dealings with one another by learning how to forgive and by asking forgiveness for our sins. In this Mass, let us ask the Lord: “Lord God, give me the humility of David, the courage of Nathan, and the compassion of your Son so that I may repent of my sins, lead others to repentance, and be gentle with my sisters and brothers in the faith. Amen”.