April Virtue: Forgiveness Pardoning those who offend you.
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he emerged from his tomb with strips of cloth. Jesus said, "Untie him and let him go" (John 11:44). The Gospels use the same Greek word for "untie" when Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sin. He says, "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). In freeing us from our sins, our souls are loosed from bondage.
God offers us freedom from our sins. However, every time we pray the Our Father, we place a condition on God's mercy towards us. We say, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that God's "outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father's merciful love..." (paragraph 2840). It is in forgiving others that we experience true freedom from the bondage of sin.
Forgiving others does not mean we approve of their behavior or do not want their actions to have just consequences. It means that we let go of bitterness in our hearts and pray for their conversion and for God to show them mercy. Jesus gave the perfect example of forgiveness when he prayed for those who crucified him, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, Nashville, TN