Politics can be overwhelming. I am heavily invested in the upcoming election. I am passionate about the moral and spiritual consequences that await us on November 7 if the culture of death prevails. And unfortunately, those passions can get downright testy and uncharitable. So it is against this backdrop that I read Msgr. Charles Pope's discussion of forgiveness in Our Sunday Visitor. I continually struggle with forgiveness. People hurt me, hurt those I love, hurt the country I love, and hurt the Church I love. I take this very personally! Does forgiveness mean I am supposed to put all that aside and embrace them over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee? Not necessarily.
Msgr. Pope offers a more realistic view of forgiveness. It is a gift from God. It allows us to view the past without the anger, resentment, and desire for revenge that consumes us when we fail to forgive. Even that is not easy. But with the God's help and grace, it is doable. Forgiveness means I can think back on past hurts and feel sorrow. I can recognize the injustice. I can pray that the perpetrator of the offense will someday also recognize the harm he has done and repent. But his repentance is not a condition for my forgiveness.
Sin has consequences. Causing harm has consequences. I may never again be able to trust someone who has betrayed me. I may find it necessary to limit my time with someone in order to protect myself from future hurt. But I have to be honest. Am I doing this out of self-preservation or as a passive-aggressive way of punishing someone? No one should have to submit to abuse. But can I put up with a relative who offers nothing but a non-stop stream of criticism as an act of charity? Am I ready to accept an apology? Or am I really hoping that there is never a reconciliation so that I can continue to cling to my sense of righteous indignation and inflated sense of superiority? Oh, Lord, I am so glad I am not like that man!
Forgiveness means I acknowledge and regret the hurt but don't fantasize about revenge. I don't eagerly await their comeuppance. I don't rejoice in their humiliation or misfortune. I do not have to like those who have caused me pain, but I do have to love them as Christ loves them and as Christ love me--warts and all. It is a tall order and only possible with God's grace. But it is possible. And who knows? Maybe someday we actually will share that cup of coffee or glass of wine.