|Saint John Paul II forgives Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who made an attempt on his life. |
(CNS photo / Arturo Mari, L'Osservatore Romano)
As we’ve said here before, Lent is a time for conversion. It is therefore an “appropriate time for a profound re-examination of life,” Saint John Paul II wrote in his 2001 Message for Lent. The Lord gives us this opportunity to draw closer to Him, and so we must look closely at ourselves in order to see what’s holding us back.
One of those things that might be inhibiting us from reconciliation with Christ is our own refusal to reconcile our differences with others. Yet, forgiveness is the only path to peace in our relationships. And so it is the only path to peace in our relationship with God. Saint John Paul II wrote:
Forgiveness given and received enables a new kind of relationship among people, breaking the spiral of hatred and revenge and shattering the chains of evil, which bind the hearts of those in conflict with one another.
Now reconciling with others is no easy feat. This step towards conversion cannot be taken unless that conversion has already begun, with the grace of God as its guide. As the sainted pontiff wrote, one must trust in God as the Lord’s disciples did:
Brothers and sisters! In commenting upon the Lord’s teaching as he journeys to Jerusalem, Saint John Chrysostom recalls that Christ does not leave the disciples ignorant of the struggles and sacrifices that await them. Jesus stresses that it is hard but not impossible to renounce oneself when one can count on God’s help bestowed on us “through communion with the person of Christ.”
With God’s help and with a “fresh experience of his mercy,” giving and receiving forgiveness is possible, no matter how much hurt there is. God’s grace makes it easier to apologize, to accept an apology, to confess, and to accept forgiveness. And in these moments of reconciliation, there is so much peace. There is so much love!
In reflecting upon St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, John Paul II reminds us that, “forgiveness is one of the highest forms of the practice of charity.” Set free from “resentment and indifference,” a “heart reconciled with God and neighbor is a generous heart,” one free to give to those in need.
During Lent, we are called to imitate God’s perfect sacrifice, by giving ourselves in service to Him and to others. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to free us through forgiveness this Lent, so that we can move forward in perfect charity.
Saint John Paul II, Pray for Us!