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DEAR FATHER | Refusing to forgive is to desire evil for another person

Why is ‘lacking forgiveness’ the only particular sin that is mentioned in the Our Father?

Jesus honed in on forgiveness more than pride, vanity, lust, gluttony and greed. The sins all delight in something good, but in a disordered way.

The talents God entrusts to us are good in themselves, but we fall into pride when we do not acknowledge they are an undeserved gift. Material possessions, food and human sexuality are all good in themselves, but can each be used in a bad way. Unforgiveness, on the other hand, involves no good, redeemable desire. To refuse to forgive is to desire evil for another person because they have caused us pain in the past. The desire for evil for another is entirely incompatible with life in the kingdom of heaven, so unforgiveness is among the most deadly sins that we entertain.

Yet forgiving can seem to be a complex process. Even after we say the words, “I forgive you,” anger may still flare up and cause us to take back our forgiveness. Anger is the psychological equivalent of physical pain. Just as pain protects our body by causing us to recoil from harmful things, anger causes us to recoil from those things that are psychologically threatening. A psychological threat can manifest itself in a variety of ways — even a past memory of being humiliated or threatened can trigger an intense anger reaction that can occasion a renewed desire for the evil of another (which is unforgiveness).

I want to offer you two imaginative meditations (both of which I’ve received from Bishop Robert J. Hermann) that can greatly help with forgiving. First, imagine yourself in 10,000 years dwelling in heavenly bliss — basking in the light and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Imagine your family members and friends, laughing and delighting in one another. And the Blessed Mother smiling upon you. Then imagine the person you have not forgiven coming toward you. He is repentant of his past sin and has perhaps spent time in purgatory. Can you be happy that he has repented? That he is with you? If so, you are on your way to forgiveness.

Second, I encourage you to deal with anger. Allow yourself to feel all the anger you have at the person who has hurt you. Feel it in your chest, in your veins and the flush of your face. Acknowledge and take ownership of this strong emotion. Now imagine yourself beneath Jesus on the Cross — under His outstretched arm. Feel His blood flow down into your heart and soul. He has been more hurt by the sin than you — you are still alive, but He died due to that sin. Allow His blood, the blood of forgiveness, to flow into your innermost being and extinguish the fire of your anger. Allow yourself to feel the healing and soothing power of the blood of Jesus Christ.

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