A sentence from the Gospel gave me pause today. After Jesus teaches the Lord's prayer, He adds this: "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." (Mt 6:14-15) How often do we cling tightly to a grudge -- to those feelings of resentment. When someone harms us, wounds our pride, do we humble ourselves and accept the derision, even though we may not necessarily deserve it? Or, if we do need the fraternal correction, do we accept it with humility and the desire to grow in our love of God?
St. Augustine is noted for saying: "Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies."
This is an excellent quote to ponder in light of forgiveness. When we refuse to let go of those angry, hurt feelings, we are actually harming our own souls. It can eat us up inside when we refuse to forgive. Resentment is a poison that will cause the wound to our pride to fester and develop into the ugliness of sin. As we all know, mortal sin deprives the soul of sanctifying grace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. (CCC 1861)If we want God to forgive us our transgressions, first we must learn to forgive others. Just as we are not perfect, neither is our neighbor; we are all in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. Ask yourself this question: Am I able to forgive so that my neighbor -- spouse, child, family member, friend, acquaintance -- will see Jesus in me? That's a question to consider during Lent, and maybe it's a penance to offer for the salvation of your own soul, and the souls of those around you.