Forgiveness Makes You Invincible

(Ah, forgiveness. It’s hard, right? God knows, but He insists. You are not getting to Heaven without it, as our Lord stressed over and over. So you had better get on with it, understanding that it isn’t a one-time event, but a lifelong project. -nvp)


And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on His right and one on His left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide His garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at Him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”—Lk 23:33-35.

We often [rightly] associate Christ’s forgiveness of His enemies with the above chapter from St. Luke. As Christ is undergoing the most exquisite torture of the Roman Empire, He maintains the composure to say “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Clearly, the Apostles had not received that gift, probably due to their own lack of cooperation with grace even before Pentecost. But it’s not totally to be excused either, for they had spent three years with Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh, in person, day and night, even before His arrest.

Then came Christ’s Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. Then, God chose to prepare the Apostles for Pentecost with nine days of prayer and fasting with Mary (the first Novena through which we live right now this week in the liturgical season.) To spend all this time with Mary was not just a sweet devotional addition to Pentecost. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur, (Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 75) that is, “What is received is received according to the mode of the receiver.” For Pentecost, the Apostles could only be ready to receive the Holy Spirit after nine days with the Immaculate Virgin Mary. I personally believe that time with Mary was not accidental, but substantial, to changing the “mode” of the Apostles to receive the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles were formed in and by Mary during these nine days. The Holy Spirit came through Mary at Pentecost, as all graces come through her. Perhaps we can go so far as to say the Apostles would not have been able to receive those many gifts of the Holy Spirit without nine days with Mary. Why? Because they weren’t ready before then, for quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur. Thus, I tend to believe Mary changed “the reception mode” of the Apostles, from the inside-out. Of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, Fortitude and Wisdom are greatly associated with forgiveness. Mary helped the Apostles (who would one day be martyrs) to forgive those who would kill them, as she forgave those who executed her Divine Son. (You might be surprised that 15 decades of the Rosary a day greatly helps at forgiveness.)

After Pentecost, the Apostles and disciples sound like Jesus, act like Jesus, move like Jesus, even in terms of forgiveness. Notice the likeness of the first martyr, St. Stephen: And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.—Acts 7:59-60. Practically, we can approach this slowly too. For example, I will often pray a forgiveness prayer I made up based on the work of Fr. Ripperger: “Blessed Trinity, I dissolve anything negative between me and x by the Most Precious Blood of Jesus and I entrust him/her to your Sacred Heart, Lord Jesus.” (Negative emotions may persist in my heart after I pray this, but I know I have at least willed to them to be free from debt to me.)

Not only will God’s infinite mercy restore those who lived the Beatitudes on earth, but God’s infinite justice will also serve as recompense towards those whom history judges as losers. Christ said, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.—Mt 5:5. St. Thomas Aquinas says meekness is all about “moderating anger according to right reason” and “consists in a certain restraint, since clemency mitigates punishment, while meekness represses anger.”—ST II-II Q. 157. This is not to say you are called to be a doormat without boundaries. (I just wrote about Catholics cherishing the Second Amendment here two days ago.) Restraint of anger sometimes needs to be suspended, such as defending the innocent from predators. But did you ever think how glorious it is to “inherit the earth”? That is nothing to sneeze at. We know the promise of God that He will re-form not just a new heavens, but even a new earth for those are saved. (See Is 65:17 and Apo 21:1.) The meek will rule.

The preface of the Resurrection in both the old Mass and the new Mass has the priest pray to God just before the triple-Sanctus: “By dying You destroyed our death. By rising, You restored our life.” If death is trampled down by Christ’s death, then so everything negative can be transformed in Christ. This includes the grudges we hold. If Christ can forgive an infinite offense against His own majesty by praying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” then we can forgive finite offenses against our puny humanities. This is given to us not only by the merits of the Passion, but also the merits of the Resurrection (hence, the Mass Preface: “By rising, You restored our life.”) This transformation in grace includes our approach to our enemies. And I believe silent time every day is one of the main keys to overturning unjust anger. But like the Apostles, our time in silence must be with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

5 thoughts on “Forgiveness Makes You Invincible”

  1. What would have happened to Saul-paul, watching, if Stephen hadn’t asked forgiveness. 15 decades a day has helped me see how some people truly don’t know what they’re doing..
    Happy Fourth!

  2. As you point out, meekness is strength subordinated to reason. A contemporary secular example of meekness vs. not meekness is the current (relative) restraint Russia has shown in dealing with Ukraine vs. the total lack of restraint Israel/US has shown with respect to the Palestinians. Russia clearly has the capability to do to Ukraine what Israel has done to Gaza, but chooses not to (for various reasons). Many may not like this example, but there it is. Unfortunately, I cannot think of an example of the US exercising “meekness.” Guess that means we won’t inherit the Earth.

  3. “Blessed Trinity, I dissolve anything negative between me and x by the Most Precious Blood of Jesus and I entrust him/her to your Sacred Heart, Lord Jesus.” – Uhh – Not bad – but how bout praying directly for their salvation?

    Just go for it. Make it a habit. It gets easy.

    “person x – Lord, please forgive his/her sins. Toward his/her salvation: Hail Mary, ……. ….. ….”

    and whatever else happens, whatever else you feel or do, it’s now a fact that you prayed for them to get The Most Important Gift.

  4. P.S. Remember that Forgiveness is the best revenge.

    Doing something destructive – that’s a low form of revenge, isn’t it? Stupid people do it.

    But praying for your enemy’s salvation – asking to see them in Heaven – saying their debt to you (real or imagined) truly does not matter – That demonstrates strength.

    AND – it asks indirectly for them to (have to) face up to their sins. Because God sure wants to let people in the mansion, but they must wipe their feet.

    For someone to face up to their sins – oh it does not have to be painful, it’s a skill or habit – like forgiveness, it gets easier the more you do it – but, “beginners” find it very painful 🙂

    And, if your enemy does develop a habit of facing their sins…. Hallelujah! Shouldn’t we all? 🙂

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