December 10, 2022
Is Forgiveness Possible?
A Reflection from the Interpath Project
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
Long before blood and water flowed from the wounded side of the crucified Jesus, forgiveness flowed from his lips, at least, according to the Gospel of Luke.
We often emphasize the pain and suffering of Jesus as if there is something sacred about suffering. Unfortunately, we live in a World where too many people believe it is the will of God for them to inflict pain and suffering on others. It does not matter what one’s faith tradition might be, many of us know what it means to suffer rejection, persecution, and intolerance. All of us have been sinned against in one way or another. We might forget this is where healing and forgiveness begin.
Forgiveness can be disturbing. I am always amazed by people who forgive when others want revenge. It is amazing, even inspiring, and life-changing to experience the power of forgiveness.
Think of some people in your life who suffered terribly because of betrayal, abandonment, persecution, rejection, or neglect. Often, such people as these forgive long before their wounds are healed, if ever.
As we look out upon the religious institutions, the World, and society, we are wounded by the hypocrisy, duplicity, unfaithfulness, and incompetence of many who ought to know and do better. Forgiveness and healing seem almost impossible in these situations.
Perhaps, we need to focus on the power of forgiveness. Let us first review what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness does NOT mean the evil committed was in any way reasonable, desirable, or willed by God. Forgiveness does not forget the crime or its effects. No one can or should justify wrongdoing, no matter the outcome. No one is wrong if they cannot forgive. Asking God for forgiveness does not excuse one from making amends or taking responsibility for the error of their ways.
Forgiveness may give release to the person hurt or the survivors of a senseless tragedy. Forgiveness accesses the deepest aspect of what it means to be a human person. Forgiveness might be the beginning of understanding and change in the World. Forgiveness ensures the violence done is not the last word. Consider the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:
“In a world without forgiveness, evil begets evil, harm generates harm, and there is no way short of exhaustion or forgetfulness of breaking the sequence. Forgiveness breaks the chain. It introduces into the logic of interpersonal encounter the unpredictability of grace. It represents a decision not to do what instinct and passion urge us to do. It answers hate with a refusal to hate, animosity with generosity. Few more daring ideas have ever entered the human situation.”
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for all the times you forgave. Thank you for all the times you considered forgiving. Blessings to you when you accept forgiveness.