Someone once said that when it comes to forgiveness,
Getting it is easy;
Giving it is what’s difficult.
But if you don’t give it,
In the end you don’t get it.
Since the year 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter has been officially designated the “Sunday of Divine Mercy.” In the Gospel reading for that day (taken from John, chapter 20), Jesus appears to his apostles in the Upper Room after his resurrection, and he empowers them to forgive sins in his name: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23)
This means that, through God’s inexhaustible mercy, any sin (and every sin!) can be forgiven and washed away, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation.
That should be great news to all of us, and to every Catholic.
But it’s only half the story. Our loving and merciful Lord, who can and will forgive every sin we sincerely repent of, also expects us to forgive and extend mercy to other people. As the Lord reportedly told St. Faustina (the Polish nun to whom he gave many private revelations concerning his mercy): “I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.” (Diary, 742)
To forgive others and show them mercy is extremely challenging, if they have hurt us often and deeply. But it’s a challenge we need to face and deal with every day, remembering these clear and powerful words of Jesus: “If you forgive others, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)