Transforming the forgiven and the forgiver

    February 21, 2024

    Forgiveness is the key to transforming the lives of both the forgiven and the forgiver. It is a two-way street that gentles the heart and moves each closer to peace and relationship to both the other and to God.

    The first reading reveals the people of Nineveh recognizing their sin — even though Jonah was a reluctant messenger of forgiveness. We see the community begging pardon and God responding in love, not in revenge. However, the Gospel reminds us of our many opportunities to forgive and be forgiven and how our failure to do so brings ongoing anger and fear.

    Many of the services provided by Catholic Charities reach out to help people who have done things they wish they had not. It is our role to be the sign that makes them ready for forgiveness, just as Jonah’s walk through Nineveh. However, like Jonah, we are ineffective witnesses of forgiveness. If we are so tired from reaching out to help that we do not truly look at our client with loving care, if we do not really care enough to see the pain that sin has deeply caused in that person and offer them our forgiveness — they will not be able to see forgiveness reflected in our faces, allowing them to forgive themselves and enter a new phase of their lives.

    And what can the impact be on us? All of us get discouraged in our service roles and can be, like Jonah, tired of our call as we go through storms and rejections, monster-swallowed and tossed away as flotsam. But when we can bring ourselves to truly forgive a neighbor who has offended us or society, that blessing also touches our hearts and fills our soul.

    Sister Mary Louise Stubbs is a Daughter of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul who has ministered through many roles and locations in Catholic Charities. She currently directs DC International Project Services finding resources and connections to help DC Sisters in low-resourced countries effectively do their ministries.

    Sign up to receive CCUSA’s prayers and reflections in your inbox.