Learning to forgive, along with a disposition toward mercy, goes a long way in creating the Kingdom of God within and around us. Consider these words of Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM on forgiveness against the backdrop of the Middle East situation as well as against the backdrop of our own lives. Then read Portia's The Quality of Mercy soliloquy from Shakespeare's the Merchant of Venice, in which she expounds on how mercy, Pope Francis' favorite virtue, changes the one who extends mercy and the one who receives mercy. And, in our reading, let us pray for ourselves and for all who are involved in conflicts that can be healed by the practice of these two virtues.
To forgive reality is to let go of the negative story line, the painful story line that you’ve created for it. If that story line has become your identity, if you are choosing to live in a victim state, you will get from it a false kind of power that makes you feel superior to others. But let me tell you, it will also destroy you.
Thankfully, God has given us a way to not let the disappointments, hurts, betrayals, and rejections of life destroy us. It is the art of letting go. If we can forgive and let go, if we don’t hold our hurts against history and against one another, we will indeed be following Jesus. The wounds of the crucified Jesus symbolize sacred wounds, transformative wounds that do not turn him bitter. After the crucifixion, there’s no record of Jesus wanting to blame anybody or accuse anybody. In fact, his last words are breathing forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
If we are to follow Jesus, we’re simply to forgive one another as God has forgiven us.
Jesus says we should forgive one another not seven times, but “seventy times seven times” (Matt 18:22). What that implies, first of all, is that God is all mercy and all forgiving in God’s very nature.
But it also implies that Jesus knows we are going to make mistakes. He assumes human beings are going to hurt one another and do it wrong—maybe even seventy times seven times.
This should keep us all humble.
Adapted from The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, Richard Rohr, OFM
On the disposition of mercy, the words of Shakespeare provide profound insights:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea.
William Shakespeare - Merchant of Venice
Teach me, Jesus, to be merciful and forgiving.