The story of Paul Miki and the 25 companions who were martyred alongside him is quite striking. Hanging on the cross, moments before death, Paul continues to preach the Gospel to the crowd before him, and following the example of Jesus himself, offers a radical gift of forgiveness to his persecutors. Paul’s life and spirituality were blessed by a close union with Christ, and from that union he draws strength for his mission and reminds us that those exceptionally difficult experiences are possible only by the grace of God.
He makes a powerful statement, not only because he provides a remarkable imitation of Jesus himself in an exceptionally difficult situation, but also because he makes a concrete personal choice to forgive because he doesn’t want to be caught up in the alternative – anger and hatred.
How do you offer forgiveness to someone when they are (literally) crucifying you? Such a gesture has traces of divine grace written all over it.
Most of us would be familiar with the Christian teaching on forgiveness. Jesus said, forgive those who hurt you. Seven times? Seventy times seven.
Forgiveness can be both simple and hard, depending on the degree of injury involved. When an injury is minor, a quick “Don’t worry about it” is easy to offer. But when it really cuts to the core, a lengthy process of reconciliation may need to take place for complete healing to happen.
Forgiveness may take time. But it essentially begins with the act of the will – “I don’t want to remain captive in my anger, I’d like to be free.” That kind of desire in itself becomes a form of prayer, where we turn to God, telling him we’ve been hurt, and asking him to help us to heal.
There are various resources (including our own books at Novalis) that provide a step-by-step guide for the journey towards healing.
In just a few short days we begin the season of Lent. Perhaps one of the things we can commit to during this time, is to unburden ourselves of any unforgiveness that we have been carrying in our hearts. We just may surprise ourselves in the process, that by offering forgiveness we enter deeper into the mystery of compassion and love, and reach a higher level of freedom and inner peace.
—Natalia Kononenko, Editor of Living with Christ
Learn how to forgive others with our recently released book by Fr. Joe Sica, Forgiveness: One Step at a Time.