It’s hard to imagine going to Confession and pouring out your heart in repentance, only to have the priest withhold absolution for no good reason. This sounds absurd, since we know that our sincere confession will result in forgiveness from God and his Church. At the same time, we can’t expect God to forgive us if we aren’t willing to forgive other people.
And yet how difficult it can be for our wounded hearts to let go of past hurts. We may find the courage to forgive those who apologize, since we feel that justice has been served. But what about those people who don’t apologize? What about those people who won’t even acknowledge their actions? What if they are so self-absorbed that they’re not even aware of the hurt they have caused? Are we supposed to forgive even them? Yes we are.
Mercy is meant to be a free gift you give to someone who may not even deserve it—a gift given out of sheer generosity, and not because the recipient earns it. Husbands and wives don’t have to earn their anniversary gifts each year. Nor do children have to do extra jobs around the house before they receive their birthday presents. Mercy should come from a generous heart without having to wait for certain criteria to be met.
This is without doubt a hard teaching, and yet to forgive someone who has wronged us is one of the most powerful signs of God’s kingdom on earth. Now obviously, some wounds take time to heal, and God knows how badly we can be hurt. But at the same time, we shouldn’t wait for the perfect moment or hold out for an apology that may never come. Lent reminds us that as Christians it is part of our job description to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.