Some wounds heal easily—skinned knees, cut fingers. A bandage and some ointment usually fix things.
But what about those invisible hurts we carry in our hearts? That knife of betrayal between your shoulder blades. That crushing disappointment you still feel under your ribs. Some experiences cut so deeply, the memory makes your lungs stop expanding.
Even when our minds long to forgive, as Jesus tells Saint Peter he must, sometimes our bodies won’t let us forget the pain. How can we forgive someone who has hurt us this deeply?
Forgiveness takes practice. It’s hard, but we work at it because Jesus expects it of us . . . not just once, but over and over again, as long as it takes.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us . . . . In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1864)
Only the Holy Spirit can open our hearts to forgive others as God forgives us.
Today’s parable ends with Jesus’ words: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 21:35) As the Catechism teaches, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2843)
God sees our hidden hurts, and He doesn’t expect us to forget the pain. Memories that reopen old wounds present opportunities to pray for healing of our hearts. Some wounds are too great to forgive immediately. But when we are too broken to extend forgiveness, God’s infinite mercy can overcome our pain, helping us forgive so we can move on.
Forgiveness brings healing—if not the first time or the seventh time, then the seventy-seventh time.
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God, grant us the strength to ask for healing of our deepest hurts. Let us pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for those who have hurt us: “Have mercy on ________ and on the whole world.” Asking for God’s mercy for someone who has hurt us is a way to remind ourselves that that person is also deserving of God’s love, no matter how badly they have scarred us.
Abbey Dupuy is the Assistant Theological Editor for Blessed is She and writes her life as a homeschooling mama of four frequently barefoot children. She muses about imperfect parenting, practicing gratitude, and celebrating the liturgical year with her young family on her blog. In her spare time, she enjoys running, gardening, coffee, and cookbooks, not usually at at the same time. You can find out more about her here.