Summary: In other words, when it comes to forgiving others, don't act like a cat!
Cats never forgive. Scientists have observed conciliatory behavior in many different animal species, like gorillas, goats, and hyenas, whom often follow confrontations with friendly behavior like embracing or rubbing noses. The only species that has so far failed to show outward signs of reconciliation are domestic cats.
In other words, when it comes to forgiving others, don't act like a cat!
The Our Father prayer has a very high standard of forgiving....forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those trespass against us, and our First Reading repeats the theme that pardoning others is a condition for receiving divine forgiveness.
e.g. General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” To which Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, I hope you never sin.
Prudence is used in how we forgive because some people can be abusive, so we might have to love them at a distance. But prayer is the one of the most powerful expressions of love that we can offer.
To forgive seventy-seven times is biblical language for endless, AND it is meant to be contrasted with Genesis 4:24, which speaks of bad person who vowed vengeance, "seven-sevenfold." However, we heard in our First Reading from Sirach 27, a theme which is repeated in Deut. 32:35 and Romans 12:19: Those who take vengeance into their own hands will become victims of divine vengeance.
To forgive is to enter in to Christ’s crucifixion with him. As he bore the pain of our sins, we are now asked to bear the pain of other’s offenses against us. Forgiving is hard because it’s a cross.
Lewis B. Smedes said, “When you forgive the person who hurt you deeply and unfairly, you perform a miracle that has no equal.”
The Jewish philosopher, Hannah Arendt, once had these wise words to say, "Forgivenss is only power which can stop the stream of painful memories."
Here are a couple extreme cases of forgiveness:
“As Catholics, we believe God’s greatest attribute is mercy. When my 21-year-old brother was murdered in 2007 on the campus of Virginia Tech, I greatly struggled with this tenet of our faith. I felt abandoned by a God who lied to me about his goodness...A year after Matthew died, my family received a letter from the mother of a student who had survived the ordeal. She thanked us for our son and brother’s sacrifice, which she believed saved her daughter’s life. Cadet Matthew La Porte had barred the classroom door with a desk. When the shooter forced his way in, Matthew charged him and sustained 7 gunshot wounds...I prayed for healing. God said, ‘Forgive the shooter. Tell your story.’ A giant leap of faith and trust in him enabled me to do the impossible—to forgive my brother’s killer and share with others what I had experienced. It was then that my life changed a second time. Peace came to me when I put my energy into loving others rather than seeking revenge. Joy came when I saw how sharing my story helped others face their own personal struggles. Mercy does not allow those who wrong us to get away with injustice. Mercy repairs what is broken, restores hope, and molds us into holy souls who emulate more closely the heart of Jesus Christ. Mercy is everything.
Priscilla La Porte
Story no. 2—
In 1990 a drifter named Robert Knighton was convicted for murdering Richard Denny and his wife, Virginia, in rural Oklahoma. Knighton got $61 and an old truck from the robbery and murder. Richard Denny had an adopted daughter named Sue Norton. When Knighton’s trial began, Sue attended the trial… confused. ‘I should feel anger and want vengeance, but I was also taught I need to pray for him and forgive him,’ Sue said. During the trial, she learned of Knighton’s childhood: a mother who had been married six times; reformatories and prisons starting at the age of 12. The day the trial ended, she asked to meet with Knighton. He was six feet tall, shackled and angry. She took a deep breath and said, ‘If you are guilty, I forgive you.’ She offered her hand through the bars. He pulled back. She grabbed it and started praying. ‘I learned forgiveness is a gift to ourselves, not for the forgiven.’ She began to write to him and to visit him. ‘Executions just turn more families into victims,’ she said. She lost friends. Knighton became a Christian on Oklahoma’s death row. She was present at his 2003 execution, his only friend among the witnesses.
Our Gospel today says, “So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart." The catechism states that “it is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense” (2843). It takes time for our hearts to catch up with our decision to forgive and say the words I forgive you. And there is Decisional forgiveness and emotional forgiveness.