Speaking in 2016, our Holy Father Pope Francis had some very sensible words to offer us on the subjects of forgiveness and meekness. He said –
“Forgiveness is a grace that the Lord gives you..it means this: leave this wisdom of forgiveness, which is a grace, in the hands of the Lord. But we must also do our part to forgive.. Stay silent, treat others well, do not respond with something else that is bad. Like Jesus: Jesus was mild of heart. And we live in a world where we are used to responding to an insult with another. We insult each other and there is a lack of meekness. Ask the grace of meekness, of meekness of heart. And there we also find the grace that opens the way to forgiveness.”
Yes, forgiveness is indeed a grace from God – and like all such graces, we need to be open and receptive to that grace and to correspond with it’s action within us, so that we are transformed by it, whether immediately or over time.
It’s interesting that the Holy Father linked forgiveness to meekness – and yet, this was eminently sensible; we cannot be people of forgiveness without first being people who are meek of heart, like the Lord.
That meekness helps us not to assert what we believe to be our rights in a particular moment or situation, particularly our right to respond negatively and especially through our words, which can cut to the core and which we can never take back. Meekness allows us to be opened to the wounds of others and to accept them in all their frailty – and this means even at those moments when their words or actions wound us in some way. Our human repsonse is to retaliate – the Holy Father is teaching us that we need to quell that initial repsonse, and to respond in a different way, a more Christian way. And to do this even when – perhaps especially when – it is hardest to do so and when it costs us the most.
As we practice living with this grace, it will indeed begin to transform us.
‘Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.’