Jesus talks about forgiveness a lot for someone who, being a perfect person, presumably never needed to be forgiven himself. He only did the hard part – freely forgiving others for their wrongdoings while never experiencing the consolation of being forgiven by someone else.
Why is it that the same sinful nature which requires me to seek forgiveness also makes it hard to forgive my neighbors? How often do I behave like the servant in the parable, expecting others to forgive and forget my offenses while I hold strong to old grievances? How often do I offer an excuse or explanation for my failures and expect them to be dismissed, while enforcing consequences for others’ mistakes?
Every day our work at Catholic Charities provides opportunities to extend mercy and forgiveness. I have the privilege to supervise social work interns for our agency. I am inspired by their willingness provide second and third chances when a client fails to deliver required paperwork, shows up late for an appointment, or neglects their service goals. They keep their eyes focused on the long-term success of their clients, even in the midst of short-term setbacks.
For us more “seasoned” professionals (speaking for myself, anyway), it’s easy to get caught up in the rules and red tape. Offenses like missing an appointment carry consequences. Multiple offenders may even risk dismissal from services. Jesus tells us not to forgive not just once, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
While accountability is necessary in our work, so are forgiveness and mercy. As we return to God through our prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lenten season, let us also be renewed in the mercy and compassion that we show to our sisters and brothers so that so that they may draw nearer to Him as well.
Lord, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Allison Cavazos is the Director of Advancement for Catholic Charities of Central Texas in Austin and serves as a member of the CCUSA Parish Social Ministry Leadership Team.
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