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Mercy, Forgiveness, Forgetting

Jésus Miséricordieux

Merciful Jesus

From Latin Misericordia, Mercy refers to compassion, pity. In this sense, be merciful returns to be taken compassion. Moreover, compassion comes from the Latin Compassio meaning “common suffering.” This then indicates that Mercy is the willingness to share the suffering of others, to be touched by the suffering of the other. Finally, Mercy is the gate or the square of Forgiveness.

The brief mention of the etymology of Mercy says it is an attitude that precedes an action, that of Forgiveness. Obviously, forgive it is do something that is the result of an inner transformation, that is to say of Mercy. And that’s what is revealed to us by the history of Salvation, for this is because God is moved by compassion for humanity that he decides to forgive sins in the person of his Son: “Father, forgive them; because they do not know what they do.”(Lk 23: 34) The cross is thus revealed as Divine Mercy icon that leads to Forgiveness. The Cure of Ars said: “God’s Mercy is like an overflowing stream. It causes hearts in its wake.” This torrent has transcended the heavens down to us through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, “True God from True God.” This torrent overthrew everything in its path, especially human conceptions. And on the cross, the torrent has baffled human expectations: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”(1 Cor 1: 22-23) Indeed, the Mercy of God, as an overflowing stream leading on the cross is foolishness and a scandal because it exceeds human understanding. The story of the Book of Jonah in chapter 4 tells us that we should not be scandalized of the Lord’s Mercy (Jo 4: 1-9), for God is full of love and kindness.

According to the Curé of Ars, “Our sins are grains of sand beside the great mountain of God’s Mercy.” This means that they are so void facing the Divine Mercy to the point that they can only be forgotten when they are forgiven. So argue that “forgive is not forget” is not Christian because that would mean that God never forgets our fault and could remind us it at any moment. To forgive is to forget, however, that’s all start as it is revealed to us by resurrection. Christ through the wood of the cross descends into hell to free humanity held captive since original sin. Thus, we are all forgiven insofar God, by this gesture, forgot our fault and we then become a new creation. “There are those who say: ‘I have done too much wrong, the Good Lord can not forgive me.’ This is a big blasphemy. It puts a limit to the Mercy of God, and she has none: it is infinite[1].”

There are also people who say, “I can not forgive because I have been deeply hurt…” This is quite legitimate since these people have not yet experienced the inner transformation of Mercy which means tackling the gesture of Forgiveness. We cannot blame them, but it is our duty to pray for these people so that the Holy Spirit acts itself in them, creates a small crack through which to infiltrate the fire of his love which will melt the ice block that keeps imprisoned in pain, in the past. The stories of the appearances of the Lord after the resurrection do not tell us that Christ reminded his persecutors or the crowd who killed him his suffering on the cross. On the contrary, Christ invites “to Believe”. Also, the first words of the Risen, “Peace be with you,” (Jn 20, 21) show that God does not want our hearts to be troubled, but he wants us to move on.

This is the meaning of the Feast of the Divine Mercy through which God reminds us by his Apostle of Mercy, St. Faustina, we allow ourselves immersed in the immensity of his merciful heart. The fact that this feast is celebrated after Easter means more than God reminds us the meaning of the death and resurrection of His Son. This feast is another opportunity to acknowledge our past and confessed sins are forgotten. It is in this sense that one can read the Curé of Ars about the sacrament of reconciliation: “To hide their sins, we must confess.”

In Jesus’ prayer we say: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Mt 6:12) This indicates that we seek God’s Forgiveness because we do the same. So, if we think Forgiving is not Forgetting and we ask God to forgive us becomes incoherent. Before ignominy as the Holocaust, Genocide, etc., we understand that it is difficult to forgive some injuries. Victims need to be listened to, to shout their incomprehension and their aches and pains to God and humanity. They need a healing memory; they need to live the inner transformation that will lead them to true Forgiveness. Then “Forgiving is not Forgetting” is the only acceptable or defensible human point of view, that is to say, when everything is limited to human capabilities. The Christian Forgiveness, meanwhile, is to forget because of the resurrection. This requires to ask God for the grace to live this transformation which opens to Forgiveness, grace to surrender to the action of the Holy Spirit.

People who hurt us are themselves suffering. Therefore be merciful to them back to note that they are, through their actions in a state worthy of pity: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23, 34) Empathize for a person who has offended us is possible, even if it seems foolish in the eyes of the world. This is the square of real Forgiveness understood as love, because there it is only love that can overcome even the greatest evil. Thus, Mercy transforms the inner and opens the way to Forgiveness which when given and received is a source of joy and liberation because it is the Forgotten offense.


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[1] Quote from the Curé of Ars.

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