TUESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT
Isaiah 55: 10-11
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Psalm 34: 4-7, 16-19
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Matthew 6: 7-15
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
With the season of Lent upon us, we have undertaken the disciplines of prayer and self-denial for the sake of drawing closer to the Lord. It is a penitent season where we look inward to those areas of our hearts and lives that need purification. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the place of forgiveness in that process.
Just as sin is part of the human condition, so is our ability to hurt one another, and everybody has been hurt by someone, many times quite seriously. While certain hurts cannot be prevented or undone in this fallen world, it is the Lord’s perfect will to bring good out of all the evil that happens to us. Forgiveness is our participation in the healing work that the Lord desires.
Forgiveness is sometimes conflated with reconciliation or with enabling bad behavior. It is important to note that the Lord does not ask us to be doormats or to put up with abuse. On the contrary, in order to truly forgive, one must acknowledge the wrong that has been committed. But unlike enabling, which denies or minimizes the hurt, or bitterness, which continually reopens the wound, forgiveness is honest about the pain that was caused but does not allow it to have the last word. Rather than taking on the burden of judging the person who committed the wrong, the person who forgives recognizes that God is just and entrusts the entire situation to Him. As Jesus prayed from the Cross, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” a person who forgives knows that only the Lord can bring the real healing that we need. When we forgive we make our hearts more like the heart of Jesus, who does not desire any soul to be lost.
Forgiveness likewise purifies us because it protects our relationship with God even in suffering. Unforgiveness can lead us to anger at God and questioning His love at allowing us to be hurt, and enabling can lead us to incorrect and dysfunctional ideas about God’s will for us regarding pain and trials. Forgiveness is honest about the hurt but at the same time knows that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and to those crushed in spirit. In order to forgive someone, especially when we don’t have an apology, we need to come to the Lord and trust that He loves us. We are reminded that, even though we may endure many troubles in this life, the Lord can deliver us out of all of them, and draw us closer to Him in the process.
Finally, forgiveness is an act of faith. When we forgive, we are realistic about the other person and the situation, but we leave the door open for the Lord to work in ways that we might not even think possible. By forgiving others, we recognize our continual need for forgiveness and acknowledge that we all need God’s help to truly be healed and fix our broken relationships.
Whom do you need to forgive? It may be painful, but bring that person and situation to Jesus in prayer today. Invite Him into your heart, trust that He desires to bring you healing and peace, and ask for the grace to forgive as He does.