Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Seeming Impotence of Forgiveness


I had to forgive someone today.

Mostly an easy, though not trivial, thing when the person you are forgiving shows remorse, or can be adjudged to have justification (even if it does approach the level of excuse), or when it is someone whom you hold dear. "If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?"

When the person has not the slightest inclination to act otherwise, no excuse, and is no holder of affection : ah, here it is that forgiveness truly begins; Here it is when we approach, in lesser fashion, the exercise of true humility and compassion of which the crown is that death of Christ for us while we were still sinners, when we have no recourse but the same Love that humbled Himself, yes, even unto death on a cross.

What then should be done to one who has sinned against you? Forgive. Yet how difficult it is, faced with such brute and unyielding arrogance to say : "I forgive you, I will not hold this to your account. Heaven bears witness I lay down indignation and grudge this day. May Christ who has pardoned me, pardon you and expunge your guilt. I wish you well. Peace be with you."

It seems so very impotent, so very useless. As it has to be; If my forgiveness is to be true it must have no expectation of immediate capitulation. No. No, I am not extending a grace from my store of benevolence, I am reflecting what I have received. Gratis accepistis, gratis date. I am forming a conduit through which forgiveness may flow. If I refuse, if mercy ends in me and goes no further, then surely it will perish in me. "If you do not forgive men, neither shall your Father forgive your trespasses".