Do unto others …

We live in a world of so much turmoil and confusion, a time when people are searching for others to blame for their woes. It is easier to find the fault in others in the hopes of diminishing our own faults and insecurities. Yet Jesus is asking us to forgive, to move on, and to do so over and over again, to truly love one another. 

Too often we find ourselves in the predicament of the first servant in Matthew’s Gospel (18:21-35), asking for mercy, begging for forgiveness, and our humility in the moment, brings about the reprieve from the unwanted outcome or punishment. However, in many cases, after being forgiven of our transgressions, we quickly hold onto the anger, and refuse to forgive another. 

The Father so readily forgives us, and Jesus is reminding us, that we are to do the same for our fellow man. We are to offer limitless forgiveness, and to accept the forgiveness of others. In doing so, we choose to imitate the immense love and mercy that God has for us. When we choose not to forgive another, we erect a wall between us and our loving Father. 

The greatest Commandment given to us is to “love one another, as Jesus loves us.” In light of what we see happening in our world, sadly, so many have chosen to respond in vengeful, angered ways. Instead of seeing the brother or sister standing before us, we search for differences to justify our actions. We must remember that it is not just that this life or that life matters, but that “we all matter,” and our actions and ability to forgive can make a difference.  

The Gospel reminds us that we are to not only forgive “seven times but 70 times seven times.” The person standing in front of us is no different than we are, no less deserving, and someone to be seen as an equal, worthy of being forgiven and loved. Yes, it seems easier to hold onto a grudge, and in many cases these grudges can take on a life of their own. Yet, like the servant in the Gospel, these grudges become our torturers, holding us prisoner, until we finally repay our debt or succumb to it. 

Forgiveness offers us peace of mind, releases us from our anger, and allows us to live life more fully. Forgiveness simply means to let go of what binds us, like the master with the servant, who forgave him his debt even though it was a substantial amount. When we forgive, and respond with love, care and compassion, we fulfill the Commandment to love one another. We begin to see each other as brothers and sisters, as fellow human beings. When we choose to recognize that person in front of us as a child of God, we no longer see skin color, religious beliefs or race, but rather the beauty of God’s diversity. In doing so, we acknowledge that we are all created in the image of the Creator, and therefore deserving of dignity and respect, of love and mercy. 

Ultimately, the decision to forgive others is fully in our control, and what we do with it, dictates how we live. However, to forgive is to let love in, and as we are reminded in Corinthians (13:4, 5), it “does not keep account of injury,” but is rather an unselfish and unconditional love. Forgiveness does not mean we condone the offense or act as if it never happened, rather we allow ourselves to not be consumed by it. When we offer up forgiveness or accept the forgiveness of others we let go of the anger and rage.

Psychologists often recommend “mustering up genuine compassion for those who have wronged us, instead of allowing bitterness and anger to eat away at us” (“Psychology Today,” 2017).So why should we learn to forgive, because it can calm us, improve our overall health, increase our happiness (Proverbs and Matthew), and most importantly, when we forgive others we open ourselves to receiving God’s forgiveness of our own sins. When we are wronged or we have wronged another, we should quickly forgive or ask for forgiveness, rather than let it become larger than life. We should approach it with empathy and a supportive nature, keeping in mind that we are all humans, and every one of us is prone to mistakes. We are reminded that we are “to do unto others, as we would want done onto us,” and just as we would want to be forgiven, so too must we forgive.

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva is Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

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