Mercy & Forgiveness

Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. Pope Francis, April 11, 2015 homily

Mercy is simply another way of expressing love. To manifest this love as compassion and mercy we must place ourselves in the heart and mind of “the other.” Compassion is easy to offer to the suffering child or the wounded soul whose demands on us are reasonable.

What is difficult is placing ourselves in the heart or mind of those who threaten us in some way (physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually), offering mercy or compassion—especially in the form of forgiveness—when it is not deserved.

Forgiveness is akin to lighting a candle in the darkness

Forgiveness is akin to lighting a candle in the darkness

Forgiveness doesn’t mean becoming a doormat, accepting unconscionable actions. It means unbinding our souls from the anger that perpetrates violence or calls for revenge or retribution.

It means not losing sight of the humanity or sacredness of the offender (whose actions are evidence of a wounded soul) as we protect ourselves from them. The Sacred Spark within them may be nearly extinguished but they remain part of the human family and therefore part of us.

Context is as important as boundaries. I would never condone any sort of violence, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual. Yet it is important to release the heavy negative energies of those who perpetrate such things. By letting go, we free our spirits to draw to us the healing energies of love.

“In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves. At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully.”

Pope Francis from his Misericordiae Vultus, for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy

So let us again reflect on the ways we are called in this moment now to embrace forgiveness as a pathway to peace. By recognizing the sacredness of forgiveness and reaching out to forgive or accepting the forgiveness we need, we unbind our souls to experience the love of God and each other more fully.

Following are the reflection questions to ponder today (or you may reflect on the questions in the preparation post):

  • In what specific ways have I been called to forgive in the last twenty-four hours; can I recognize God in that?
  • Whose forgiveness must I seek to unbind my soul? Can I allow God to enter into that task?
  • How do my thoughts and actions encourage or discourage forgiveness?
  • Thinking over my day, did I miss or reject an opportunity to recognize the Divine Spark in myself or another or offer mercy, forgiveness, or love?

Our prayer today

May we have the courage to allow the peace within forgiveness to unbind us and open us more fully to love.

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