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Hang on or let go? Forgive and be forgiven. We know in our lives there can be really difficult circumstances that occur, and sometimes the pain is really, really deep. There may be times when we are not sure we can forgive someone else. Sometimes we think this forgiveness is about the other person and not us. How is it we can forgive someone who has hurt us so badly?

But Jesus helps us to learn an important truth about forgiveness. When we choose not to forgive we harm ourselves. We carry the grudge. We can close ourselves off to love. We can cease to trust others. We can cease to look for chances to help others. Most especially, we can allow ourselves to embrace the cold ice of unforgiveness which leaves us alone.

Jesus shows us another way. When we can work to forgive, to let go, our hearts are stretched to love more than we thought we could. And this is possible because God loves us. God moves us to accept the grace, the help he provides us to make forgiveness possible. When we forgive, we participate in God’s action in the world. When we forgive, we show the world that hatred and violence only lead to more hatred and violence.

But there is a better way. Jesus is asked what the “bare minimum” is for forgiveness. Is it only a few times? Is it more than once? What exactly does God expect of us? We are challenged to recognize that often what angers us about the behavior of others is what we ourselves struggle to overcome. We get angry at the impatient because we are impatient. We get angry at others who are selfish because we are selfish. We get frustrated with those who ignore others because we ignore others.

When we pray the “Our Father” we are reminded that God forgives our trespasses because we forgive the trespasses of others. We are given by God all that we need. God longs and waits for us to seek forgiveness. God longs and waits for us to see the benefit of our forgiving others. God longs and waits for each of us to recognize just how important it is for us to see ourselves as part of the human family, and to see that all people are made in God’s image.

In writing his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis identifies the great need of recognizing the power of this community. He rightly points out that everyone is our neighbor, and like the Good Samaritan we are to care for any person who is in need. There are no exceptions to the rule that all human beings are made in God’s image and likeness.

The challenge of our faith life is to recognize that not only do we need to become the person God wants us to be in receiving the Eucharist, we must see that God calls us to conversion each and every day. Jesus becomes really present, body and blood soul and divinity, every time we go to Mass. But every Mass has as its goal is to help us to see how Jesus is also present in the Church, in the Body of Christ that each of us are a part of today. The grace of God is given to us in order to make us into the persons we were created to be. The grace of God is given to us so that we can become the Body of Christ more fully. When we are open to the grace of God, we witness to everyone in the world what is possible when we are open the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is not easy to forgive, but with God it is possible. And when we forgive, there is a lot more room in our hearts to receive and experience the love of God.

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