This from my twin, Fr Stephen Schultz of St Timothy parish in Chantilly, VA.
The Holy Trinity is our origin and our destiny, our beginning and our end. We are made for perfect love. In God’s perfect love, he will always forgive us because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This should give us the greatest hope and trust in God. He will always forgive us, we just have to return to Him with our whole heart, confess our sins with sorry, and promise to amend our life. I could write a great deal about the Sacrament of Reconciliation and why it should be part of our life, not once in a while or almost never. But I’d like to write about something that keeps us from the Sacrament, keeps us from peace, and indeed keeps us from reconciliation with others. It is our own failure to forgive.
Do we have to forgive everyone who has every harmed us, betrayed us, disappointed us, or turned their on us? Yes. We say in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We ask the Father to make our forgiveness of others the condition of our forgiveness. Therefore, we have to forgive those who have wronged us.
What if it is someone from our past who we will never see again (before Heaven!) or someone who has gone before us to the Lord? What of someone who doesn’t want to be forgiven, someone who won’t apologize or repent? What if we think they don’t deserve forgiveness? We’re called to forgive as Christ forgives, even as Christ forgave
the soldiers who nailed him to the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) If we don’t, we’re closed to the freedom and healing of God’s forgiveness for us.
Yet, we find it difficult to forgive! All of us can probably call to mind someone who we need to forgive. We think forgiveness is impossible because many of us don’t understand what forgiveness is. “I can’t forgive,” we say, because the feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger all return when we think about what has happened in the past. Goodness knows when those past wounds come to mind all the feelings can return as though it all is happening all over again. The fact is, our forgiveness doesn’t depend on our feelings. Forgiveness depends on our faith. What may seem impossible for us is possible through God.
Does healing seem impossible? Does reconciliation also seems impossible? It is possible with God. “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
Forgiveness is a choice, an act of the will. Our choice to forgive with the grace of God removes the burden of grudges, resentment, and bitterness from us. It does more for us than it may do for anyone else, and though we should desire reconciliation with the one forgiven, even though they might not wish it, we can still make the choice to forgive.
Here’s how to forgive from the heart: Repent of being unforgiving, of harboring grudges, or holding that sin against someone. Put that person before the Cross of Christ and say, “I forgive you.” Say exactly what you are forgiving! “I forgive you for…” Say it all. Then, “I forgive you from my heart.” Turn to the Lord and say, “I ask you to forgive them, to grant them peace and healing, conversion of heart, and help them to be as holy as you made them to be.”
Forgiveness is the key that opens our heart to God’s mercy and healing. Be forgiving, and you will be forgiven.