How to Forgive Offenses Willingly

The fifth spiritual work of mercy (to forgive offenses willingly) is one of the hardest to perform. Jesus did not go easy on His disciples when they asked about this attribute of discipleship:
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Jesus instructs His apostles to forgive “seventy times seven,” which is believed by scholars to mean “without limit.” This forgiveness Jesus speaks of stands in contrast to the “limitless” vengeance Lamech proclaimed in the book of Genesis:
“If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:24)
If we are to be a true follower of Jesus, we must become missionaries of forgiveness instead of warriors of vengeance.

Above all, we must not limit our own forgiveness of others lest we become hypocrites. How can we be forgiven of all our sins in the sacrament of Confession if we continue to hold a grudge against our neighbor and refuse to forgive them?

Jesus reminds us, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matthew 7:2).

If we want Jesus’ mercy to be limitless for us, should we not have boundless mercy towards others?

When Pope John Paul II was shot in St. Peter’s Square, he quickly forgave his attacker at the first moment he could. In fact, he forgave his assassin during the ambulance ride to the hospital!

The greatest way we can cultivate a forgiving heart is devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He is Mercy itself and teaches us the perfect and boundless way of forgiveness. When we find ourselves unwilling to forgive, we must recite these words:

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Make My Heart Like Unto Thine!

Think about this work of mercy for a few minutes and while you do that, think over the past year. Do you hold any grudges towards friends or family members?  Are you willing to forgive them? They may not be open to your forgiveness, but that is up to them. All you need to worry about is having a right relationship with God and holding onto the past, seeking retribution, can injure that relationship. 

If you can not forgive, ask Jesus for the strength. One of the regrets many people have on their death-beds is that they didn't forgive someone.


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