Fourth Week of Easter

Forgiveness and Peace

Jesus connected God forgiving our sins with us forgiving the sins of others:

"If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." — Matthew 6:14-15

In short, we cannot have peace with God if we do not work for peace with our neighbor, and vice versa. Peace with others begins with forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard work! We can only do it with the grace of God. Forgiving does not mean ignoring offenses or downplaying their hurtfulness. It typically means telling the other person that they have hurt you and asking them to repent. Here's what Jesus had to say on the matter:

"If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” — Luke 17:3-4
Those who have wronged us will not always be open to reconciliation. Even if we cannot forgive them because they will not repent, we are still called to love them. The spiritual peace of the Resurrection is radical; it even extends to enemies!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust." — Matthew 5:43-45

This will look different in different circumstances, but fundamentally, it means willing, acting, and praying for the other person's good. Forgiveness doesn't mean we need to like someone or even associate with them if that would be inappropriate for whatever reason. But it does mean we must forgo hatred and revenge.

In this life, we cannot live in harmony with everyone. Jesus promised us that people would hate us because of him, and ordinary sin often causes unresolvable tensions. But by God's grace we can work for peace and look forward to the peace of the heavenly Kingdom.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.