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Set Free By Forgiveness

I can’t read today’s Gospel about forgiveness without thinking about my dad. Growing up with a Baptist minister for a father, I sat through more homilies than I can count, and themes of forgiveness ran rampant through nearly every one. Forgiveness is the heart of the Good News, of course: we rejoice in the knowledge that our sins are not enough to separate us from the mercy of God. We’ve been reconciled to Him because of His great love, not our own merit.

But what my dad seemed to understand better than most was that forgiveness is not only necessary between God and man, it is very much necessary between people as well.

As I got older, I began to appreciate just how hard my father had worked to extend forgiveness. My grandpa had suffered from alcoholism and, as a result, dad’s childhood had been mangled with the effects of the vicious disease. If you or someone you love battles addiction, you know how painful a road that is to walk. There are wounds that run so deep they seem impossible to overcome.

What my father, led by the Holy Spirit, grew to accept was that forgiving someone for falling short doesn’t mean the wounds didn’t happen, nor that they’re not still present in some ways. My dad made the decision to forgive the flaws of his father because he believed it would set them both free from the shackles of shame and resentment.

The choice to forgive is hard work—and often ongoing work—but God knows it is the only way we can move forward out of pain toward healing.

Dad used to tell me that people are afraid that extending forgiveness insinuates they weren’t wronged, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Forgiveness actually affirms that you were wronged, but that you have the courage to not let the wrongdoing keep you from wholeness in God. The one who sinned against you did damage—sometimes terrible damage—but they do not have the power to continue holding you down.

The one who sinned against you did damage—sometimes terrible damage—but they do not have the power to continue holding you down. Click To Tweet

Your soul was made to rise to God, and forgiveness is waiting to take you there. What steps can you take toward this today?

Shannon Evans is a Protestant missionary turned Catholic convert who lived to tell the tale. She is a writer, podcaster, and speaker, but potty training four boys will be the achievement on her epitaph. Shannon and her family make their home in central Iowa, where they seek to live out the social teachings of the Church in their small and ordinary days. You can find out more about her here. She is the author of our 2018 Advent Study, forthcoming and Blessed Conversations: The Our Father study found here.

10 Comments

  • Reply
    Kathy
    August 16, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Thanks for this wonderful reminder of forgiveness.
    Good luck and enjoy the potty training! I have 4 grown boys and not a day goes by that I don’t wish they were young and back in my arms;)

  • Reply
    Christina
    August 16, 2018 at 8:50 am

    Well if this isn’t so incredibly timely. As we sit here in the church of Pittsburgh in great disbelief and enraged by the actions of priests of our diocese, I can’t help but think that Satan wants us to stay here in this “place” festering in anger and never moving forward in the freedom of forgiveness. For many, that may take a very long time but healing comes when we loose the bonds of anger and bitterness. Praying so much for our church right now.

    • Reply
      Jean-Paul Marie Justin
      August 16, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      In Remorse Repentance and Contrition for assisting in another’s sin
      by Counsel and by Silence
      by Command
      by Consent
      by Provocation
      by Praise or by Flattery
      by Concealment or by Partaking
      by Defense of the Ill done

      none of these are expressions of forgiveness

    • Reply
      Shannon Evans
      August 16, 2018 at 5:10 pm

      Obviously, this reflection was written far in advance of this week and I couldn’t have foreseen the headlines that would accompany it. I join you in prayers for our Church, and especially that we may relentlessly pursue justice and reform along with the freedom of forgiveness.

    • Reply
      Shannon Evans
      August 16, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      Obviously, this reflection was written far in advance of this week and I couldn’t have foreseen the headlines that would accompany it. I join you in prayers for our Church, and especially that we may relentlessly pursue justice and reform along with the freedom of forgiveness.

  • Reply
    Kate
    August 16, 2018 at 10:58 am

    “people are afraid that extending forgiveness insinuates they weren’t wronged, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Forgiveness actually affirms that you were wronged, but that you have the courage to not let the wrongdoing keep you from wholeness in God. ”

    Thank you for this. I will hold onto this all day as my main reflection from this daily devotion. What true and difficult words to live out!

  • Reply
    Jean-Paul Marie Justin
    August 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    a question to be asked, at what point does forgiveness become enabling?
    another question to ask, does a person exploit the ‘surety’ of forgiveness
    to an advantage, to a level of empowerment and continued abuse?

    • Reply
      Shannon Evans
      August 16, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Great question! Forgiveness doesn’t mean that justice shouldn’t be served in a legal sense OR that extreme boundaries aren’t sometimes necessary between people. Sin has terrible consequences, and forgiveness doesn’t negate those.

    • Reply
      Erin
      August 16, 2018 at 6:08 pm

      Forgiveness and mercy to someone who has committed a wrong does not mean that justice is not due to that person. Justice is the virtue of rendering unto another that which is their due. God is both merciful and just. I believe God does not command us to forgive others to allow the sin/abuse to continue OR negate the fact that the person deserves punishment, but rather, to allow US to be free from the bitterness and anger that the hurt or sin may have caused- to prevent it from destroying our heart. We must trust that God, a just judge, will judge that individual according to their due- it is not our duty to do this.
      As St. John Paul II said: “Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil. The measure of such a decision is the love of God who draws us to himself in spite of our sin. It has its perfect exemplar in the forgiveness of Christ, who on the Cross prayed: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’”. He also said, “No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness”.
      I hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Lisa Harper
    August 16, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    Love this!! That is all!

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