Forgiveness is rarely an easy matter. It is often hard work and requires perseverance for it to work well. There is a process outlined in today’s Gospel that provides a few rudimentary principles that we can apply. It is not a comprehensive description that will fit all occasions. Each of us will have to discern how to best approach forgiving those who sin against us and asking forgiveness of those we have sinned against according to the nature and circumstance of the act. This is not giving license to relativism – it is merely respecting the fact that no two situations are perfectly alike. Every person approaches things in a slightly different way and we need to respect that.

 

Having said the above the basics are fundamental – forgiveness is ultimately not an option but a goal to work towards, a goal whose path may be long and windy or relatively short depending on the situation and the people involved. It is crucial that we always remember that there are at least two sides to any story and we need to be careful in how we make assumptions about any situation. In fact, assumptions are best avoided altogether. Dialogue and mutual understanding are the key to conflict resolution.

 

Jesus shows the way with the example of his life. For him there is no sin too big to be left unforgiven and when you consider that even the smallest sin is of infinite insult to his goodness, this is saying something indeed! There are many horrific sins committed against innocent people but even these pale towards nothing in comparison to how God experiences our sinfulness. Let us then, having received God’s mercy in our own lives, seek to bring that same mercy to the lives of those who sin against us. Let us try to look beyond our own hurt in order to see the hurts and struggles of others that we might be able to understand their actions better no matter how hard that may be for us.

 

Jesus, you are the only way to the Father and that way includes the ministry of forgiveness. Help me to forgive others in the same way you have forgiven all of my sins.