Sometimes as a priest I have people come to me with the question, “How is it possible for me to forgive such and such a sin that a person has committed against me?” This can be a very real problem for most of us at some time in our lives. This is particularly the case as regards our relationships with the people whom we love the most. It is in the relationships that really matter to us that such questions often arise.

The simple answer to the question is that true love overcomes all things. No matter what obstacles sin may place in the way of our relationships, love can overcome them all! However, learning how to love one another in this way is not an easy task; nor is it one that does not need constant attention in order to maintain this sort of attitude of forgiveness in our lives. The father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is a case to point. We see in him a wonderful example of forgiveness where he refuses to hold the sins of his son against him even when his elder son makes a plausible case for him to do so. The father illustrates for us a truth about love that is often difficult to embrace. True love does not demand that punishment be meted out for the sake of justice. Yes, justice must be served, but all that is absolutely necessary for that is the complete truth and the repentance of the person who has sinned.

The father in the parable is a type of Jesus who dies for us on the cross. All that is necessary now for our reconciliation with God is for us to repent of our sins. That is, we must embrace the truth of our sinfulness and repent or turn away from our sinful ways of acting. God does not punish us as such for our sins because Jesus has carried that burden with Him on the cross. In His suffering our sins are forgiven; justice has been meted out on the cross to the point that we have only to avail ourselves of it!

As we reflect upon the whole story and allow ourselves to be drawn into the drama of sin, repentance, love and forgiveness, let us recognize that we are the players in the same sort of dramas every day of our lives. We probably have and will have in the future the opportunity to play each of the parts in the drama. Let us try to ensure that our principal part is that of forgiving those who sin against us and repenting of our own sins. In this way we will be doing all that we can to ensure our share in the merits of the cross of Jesus Christ.

How easily do I forgive those who sin against me? Do I expect others to forgive me when I sin against them? Where does God fit into this aspect of my life?

Lord Jesus, by your death and resurrection you have set us free from the powers of sin and death. Grant me the grace to live a life of love and forgiveness so that I will truly reflect the values you demonstrated in your own life and those you demand from your disciples.