By Lesego Zikhali
Suffering ends the moment we decide to forgive.
What happens when we are able to move past old hurts and practice forgiveness? It’s not about accepting a wrong or going against your own values; it’s about healing and the result is that it illuminates the powerful path to living a more gracious life. The act of forgiveness; that moment of letting go and feeling the first new ray of light open your heart and flow into you – that is the moment when healing begins.
Old, hardened stories have worn grooves in your mind and heart. Hardness becomes a habit long after the event has passed. You hope that hanging onto the old story will one day make it right. But the gift comes when you decide that the change is within you. The Lord said to Peter that we are to forgive one another seventy times seven times (Mt 18:21-35). That is the gravity of forgiveness; despite what your neighbour has done, you must forgive, and that moment you forgive your heart changes and the very mercy of the Lord is manifested through you. The moment you allow this the whole story falls away, i.e. you forgive and forget. The wind blows. Everything is new again. Every cavern of your heart stretches to invite the light in. Shafts of light warm your face and open your eyes, awaking you to the incredible reality and wonder of each life around you. You start to be amazed that we have all gotten this far, that we manage to live and love at all, given the complex circumstances of our daily lives. A tremendous and unforced compassion and connection arises spontaneously within us and flows to others.
But, forgiveness needs to be practiced each day, over and over again, for the hundred small ways in which we don’t see one another. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he also gives us the grace to love, to forgive. To forgive as Christ forgives is sometimes, some argue always, impossible to do on our own. But Christ doesn’t ask us to forgive on our own; He simply asks that we participate in his gift of forgiveness. It’s that forgiving for the little things, even when you think it doesn’t matter, that will set you free and show you how you are connected to everything. And then, one day, you may at last come to forgive yourself, and allow others to forgive you, too.
The season of Lent is a time of preparation for the Church’s observance of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. This emphasises the importance of forgiving. Lent is a penitential season. During these forty days the focus is on repentance and the need for forgiveness. Forgiveness is an overriding Lenten theme. It invites us to reflect on our own willingness to forgive people who have wronged us, intentionally or unintentionally.
We need to live the words of Christ on the wooden cross which he manifested by forgiving us because we don’t know what we are doing. By these words we are able to inherit the Kingdom of God.