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For Your Weekend: The Fruit of Forgiveness Is…Forgiveness

Jeannine Yousif
September 16, 2023

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 18:21–35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” [And] Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:2122).

How often do these familiar Scripture verses echo in our minds as we struggle with forgiving someone, especially someone who is a repeat offender? To forgive another person for causing us harm may feel like we are giving them a pass, that we are excusing their poor or unjust behavior, and that our feelings have been overlooked, disregarded, or invalidated. 

While bitterness and resentment reside in our heads and hearts, the truth that Jesus gives us in this week’s gospel can be easily forgotten: that we are to forgive, and forgive, and forgive those who sin against us. 

Why? Because this grace is continually offered to us by our Father in heaven. His mercies toward us are new each and every morning (Lamentations 3:22). We cannot expect forgiveness from our Father if we withhold this same grace to those He has called us to love. And yes, this includes those most difficult to love, maybe most especially. Saint Paul describes this as a characteristic of the Christian life, of being God’s chosen ones, that we must bear with one another and forgive one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do (Colossians 3:13).

And if we don’t forgive? We can then expect the same outcome that befell the unforgiving servant: to be handed over to our torturers, as Jesus promises our heavenly Father will do to us unless each of us forgives his brother from his heart (Matthew 18:35).

Forgiving our brothers and sisters with our whole heart doesn’t come naturally to most of us. However, with the Holy Spirit’s help, it can come to us supernaturally. Softening a hardened heart toward forgiveness is an act that can only be attributed to the profound movement of the Holy Spirit and His gift of supernatural grace within us. Those who choose to act upon this gift and forgive others are bearing the fruit of the forgiveness God has already shown them. Forgiveness is the ripened fruit of a gift already offered to us through the unending mercies of God. This fruit is so beautifully displayed in the following story written by Corrie ten Boom and referenced by Lisa Brenninkmeyer in the Bible study Living in the Father’s Love.

Lisa writes that during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Corrie and her family bravely chose to join the resistance movement and hide Jews in their apartment. Eventually, Corrie and her beloved sister, Betsie, were imprisoned and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Betsie perished there just days before Corrie’s December 31, 1944, release.

“Inspired by Betsie’s own example of selfless love and forgiveness amid cruelty and persecution, Corrie established a postwar home for other camp survivors…She went on to travel widely as a missionary, preaching God’s forgiveness and the need for reconciliation…She came face-to-face in 1947 with one of her former tormentors. The following description of that experience is excerpted from her 1971 autobiography, The Hiding Place, written with the help of John and Elizabeth Sherrill.”[1]

It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives…

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; the man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent…

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” 

No, he did not remember me. 

“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein…” his hand came out… “will you forgive me?”

And I stood there—I whose sins had every day to be forgiven—and could not. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” 

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.[2]

“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). Is there someone you are struggling to forgive? God longs to bring us the freedom and healing we seek. Find the rest of this life-changing lesson in Living in the Father’s Love Bible study today.

Food for thought or journaling…

Who in your life are you being called to forgive? 

Can you take the name of this person or persons to adoration or prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, praying not only for your heart but for the heart of the person who wronged you?

You know my heart, Lord. You know what barriers lie in the way of me offering forgiveness with my whole heart. On my own, these barriers seem too high to overcome. With You, Lord God, all things are possible. Help me to forgive the trespasses of others as You have forgiven mine. Amen.

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Living in the Father’s Love (Walking with Purpose, February 2020 ), 84.
[2] Reprinted with permission from Guideposts. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts, Carmel, New York 10512. All rights reserved.

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