Monday, November 23, 2020 –
Today we are going to cover probably the hardest of the Spiritual Works of Mercy: to forgive all injuries.
I do not mean that it is the hardest to understand. On the contrary, this is an easy-peasy one. However, it is (in my opinion) the most difficult to accomplish on account of we are stubborn humans who like to hold grudges and whatnot.
Well, let’s get on with it, shall we? Starting, of course, with our much-loved Bishop Morrow:
Which are the chief spiritual works of mercy?—The chief spiritual works of mercy are seven:…
5. To forgive all injuries.
We must not seek revenge. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). We must forgive others, as we hope God will forgive us. Instead of seeking revenge, those who wish to imitate the saints go out of their way to do favors to those who injure them. Like Christ, they love all men. (Bishop Morrow, My Catholic Faith, p. 181)
Ohhh…wait. This is about vengeance!? Yes…and no…and maybe…well, sort of not really…but absolutely yes.
Before you think I’ve lost my fuzzin’ mind, let’s open up our Baltimore Catechism #3 and see if we can get a little more information:
Q. 816. Why are we advised to bear wrong patiently and to forgive all injuries?
A. We are advised to bear wrongs patiently and to forgive all injuries, because, being Christians, we should imitate the example of Our Divine Lord, who endured wrongs patiently and who not only pardoned but prayed for those who injured Him.
Q. 817. If, then, it be a Christian virtue to forgive all injuries, why do Christians establish courts and prisons to punish wrongdoers?
A. Christians establish courts and prisons to punish wrongdoers, because the preservation of lawful authority, good order in society, the protection of others, and sometimes even the good of the guilty one himself, require that crimes be justly punished. As God Himself punishes crime and as lawful authority comes from Him, such authority has the right to punish, though individuals should forgive the injuries done to themselves personally.
Okay, THERE it is. Christ forgives us a zillion times over (in the Sacrament of Penance). He is not a wrathful God that smites us down for our sins. NO! Rather, He gives us every opportunity to seek His forgiveness, and gladly grants it to us whenever we approach Him in sorrow.
Likewise, we too should readily forgive those who have injured us. This does not mean the hurt will go away. Instead, it means that we can begin to heal and move forward with a little extra grace. Cracking open our Baltimore Catechism #3 we see that this is also a matter of justice, which means to give each their due. Yes, we should forgive, but we also justly punish the crime.
For example, let’s use the old, Catholic standby of a kid breaking your window, but with the added twist of it being totally on purpose. As in, little Johnny had it out for your window and just up and thew a rock through it because he hates glass or something. It was wrong for little Johnny to break your window. You could say that Johnny injured you by so brashly bashing your window.
Being a good and God-fearing neighbor, you march over to Johnny’s house and do what?
A) Smack Johnny around a bit and break his favorite window.
B) Forgive Johnny, but still ask him to pay for a window replacement.
I so hope you picked B. If not, I am doing a terrible job at online CCD. Yes, B is the answer here because you forgave the person who injured you. Now, you also acted justly by asking for your window to be put right. Johnny did the wrong here, and it is for his good, his benefit, that he learns from his brashness so he will not sin again in the future. Johnny also learned from your forgiveness because he gets to see how a true Christian reacts. You too learned a valuable lesson full of grace. By forgiving Johnny you learn to be more Christ-like, just like the Saints.
Sancte Thoma, ora pro nobis!