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How Often Must I Forgive

We have all heard this Gospel many times, but how do we forgive? How do we forgive seventy-seven times?

First, we have to confess ourselves, experience the grace of forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Then we receive our Lord Jesus in Holy Communion.  

Let His Body and Blood work in us.  This is fundamental.  We cannot give to others what we have not received from the Lord.  Then, we can begin to forgive others with the grace of the Lord.

Here is a spiritual exercise I found from Dr. Conrad Baars that may be helpful.  

Think of a person you are willing to forgive.  This person may be alive or already dead.  Stand before Jesus.  You can come right here to church.  

Implore the power of his divine mercy and pray:

“Lord God, I thank you for this quiet moment, for this opportunity to place myself in your presence.  Lord, it is good to be here in your loving presence.  I praise and glorify you.  Thank you, Lord, for helping me to be still and know that you are a merciful God.  Thank you for the grace to be comfortable with the anger I feel toward this person who has hurt me.  Thank you for taking away the guilt and fear I used to feel every time I got angry.  

You know, Jesus, that I have made every reasonable effort to make peace with the person who hurt me.  You know that these efforts have been in vain because (of his refusal to right the wrong, or because she is no longer alive, or because I waited so long before resolving my anger).  -- Whatever the case may be.  I believe you desire my happiness and healing more than I could ever desire it for myself.  

Thank you for teaching me that it is by forgiving that I will be free of resentment, so that I can go on living without bitterness and tension and their destructive effects on my body, mind and soul.  I ask you, Jesus, to increase your grace of mercy within me.  The grace that flows from you is always present to me.  I need your grace to give me strength to do what you want me to do, because it is not easy to forgive when I feel so hurt and angry.  

Thank you, Lord, for giving me the strength of your Divine Mercy in this difficult moment in which I will say from my heart: "Jesus, in your name and in your presence here I forgive _______ (fill in the space with the name of the person).

My Jesus, I see this person who has hurt me.  I see him or her in your merciful love now, and I say, "I forgive you (name the person) in the name of Jesus Christ.  I also ask Jesus to forgive you for the wrong you have done to me.  I thank God that you are now forgiven. Amen."

In the coming days, weeks, or months after you have offered this prayer, whenever you become aware of some pain and anger from the past -- which now gradually or almost totally disappears -- give thanks for this act of forgiveness and its power to deliver you from evil:

“Lord, now several days have passed and I feel again some of the past anger and resentment towards this person.  I thank you that you have forgiven (name the person again) and that you gave me the strength and willingness to forgive him/her as well.  I now bless (name the person) in the name of the Lord.  I see (name the person) as your child, O God, because with my prayers your healing love is entering him/her.  Amen.”

May our Lord, who is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness, bless you as you forgive others — seventy-seven times.

Fr. Mark Zacker



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