God will help us to forgive, find healing

As a dedicated disciple, Peter had been observing and listening to Jesus. So he assumed that his teaching on forgiveness would be more generous than the prevailing norms of Jewish law. The common rabbinical teaching was that one must forgive another three times; the fourth time, the offender was not to be forgiven. Peter was anticipating Jesus’ response to his question, suggesting seven times.

But Jesus says there shouldn’t be any limit. We must be ready to forgive those who wrong us "seventy times seven times," just as there is no limit to the Father’s forgiveness of us.

One of the first prayers many of us learn as small children is the Our Father. We pray it every time we participate at Mass or say the rosary. But like so many things that are repetitious and recited by memory, we often lose sight of the meaning of this beautiful prayer that Jesus himself taught us. The Scripture readings for this Sunday provide a commentary on one clause of the Lord’s prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

In his very first Sunday homily as the Holy Father, Pope Francis proclaimed, "This is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy." Since that day, he has repeated over and over the marvelous truth that God’s mercy is limitless. And yet we cannot receive this wonderful gift from God without giving it to those who have hurt or offended us.

When we fail to forgive and cling to our anger, we don’t experience the peace, serenity and joy that God seeks to offer us. We become imprisoned in our cynicism, resentment and negativity. Our self-pity can become so overwhelming that it can take a severe toll on our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Unlimited forgiveness can be very hard and may seem impossible. What are we to do? Pray for healing. Not only does God forgive us, he wants us to have the willingness and the ability to forgive. In today’s Psalm 103, God "pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills…" He "crowns you with kindness and compassion" (3-4).


Father Dennis Hanneman is a retired priest of the archdiocese. Contact him at

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