We belong to the church of forgiveness. We believe in God who sent his Son to die on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Hanging from that cross, he forgave even the ones who had nailed him. Jesus taught us to forgive 70 times seven, that is, everything. The Son of God, who never tires of forgiving, gave his apostles and, through them, priests the power to forgive our sins in the name of God.
Jesus wanted divine forgiveness to be a sacrament, so we can experience through our senses that God has indeed forgiven us. How liberating it is to listen to the words of the priest: “I absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” If we didn’t hear that we are forgiven, we would not be certain. But hearing so heals us and brings peace to our soul.
A year of mercy and forgiveness
Pope Francis wants us to celebrate an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy from Dec. 8 through Nov. 16, 2016. This implies living a holy year of forgiveness.
Because he knows that mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive, Francis will make it easy for all sins to be forgiven those with a contrite heart. He has permitted, for instance, that throughout the jubilee, all priests in the world may absolve the sin of abortion and dispense from the related excommunication.
During the jubilee, we’ll be able to visit basilicas and cathedrals and enter through their Holy Doors to earn plenary indulgences. We can then apply them in favor of our deceased, so they can instantly exit purgatory.
For us to be forgiven, we need to ask for forgiveness and confess our sins. This demands that we repent. Not only of having failed — that would be mere arrogance — but of having failed God, and in doing so, of having hurt once and again our brothers and sisters.
Forgive to be forgiven
To be forgiven, we must also forgive. One of the principles of mercy in our religion of forgiveness was dictated by Jesus in the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Hence, to merit forgiveness this Year of Mercy, we must not only repent, but must also forgive others. By forgiving, we become merciful. By forgiving, we resemble our merciful God. By forgiving, we merit divine mercy.
Yet how hard it is to forgive! Forgiving each other will be the biggest challenge of the church this jubilee, because this is the biggest struggle of the children of God. Difficult it is to forgive the one who offends us, the one who has ignored us, the one who has oppressed us. Difficult it is to forgive the one who cheats, the one who has lied to us, the one who has betrayed us. Difficult it is to forgive the one who hurts us, the one who has wounded us, the one who has harmed us. It is difficult to forgive the one who has harmed those we love the most.
Wait a moment! Let’s read these last words: It is difficult to forgive the one who has harmed those we love the most. But, if we are honest, it is we who hurt the ones we love the most! Many times, to be able to forgive others, we must begin by forgiving ourselves. This implies acknowledging that we also hurt, offend, harm and ignore our brothers and sisters. Acknowledging that we also hurt others makes it easier to forgive those who have hurt us.
Lord, help us to forgive those who trespass against us, so that we may merit your mercy in this holy year!
Be passionate about our faith!
This is the English translation of the “Semillas de la Palabra” column "El mayor desafío de la Iglesia en el Año de la Misericordia" that appeared in the November 2015 issue of NORTHWEST CATHOLIC.