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We have, as Michael Voris says, a duty of forgiveness — a point he makes in the latest episode of the fourth annual Retreat At Sea. When the Apostles ask Our Blessed Lord how to pray, He answers: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." As is His wont, Christ also uses parables to allude to this truth: Who loves more? The one who was forgiven much or the one who was forgiven little? It's no good to simply ask for forgiveness. We have to offer forgiveness to those who have wronged us as well.
This whole issue of "offering forgiveness" is perhaps the most powerful non-explicit declaration Christ makes about His divinity. It's one thing to say "I forgive you for something you did to me," but it's another thing entirely to say "I forgive you for something you did to someone else" — or, as Christ says it, "Your sins are forgiven." Forgiving sins is divine because it recognizes the fundamental truth that all sin is, first and foremost, an offense against God. That is what Christ is saying when He forgives sins; "these sins are an offense agains Me, and I forgive you." And that, of course, is why those who heard Him say that were so shocked and scandalized — or shocked and suddenly willing followers of the Messiah.
But it's not just a question of forgiving others, or being forgiven by God. We have to be willing to forgive ourselves, to move beyond our sin, to not let it dominate our lives. I've spoken about something related to this before, but this is different. When we go to confession, we confess our sins. The confessor serves as a sort of garbage man, taking out the trash. We drop our sins in the dustbin and the priest takes them to the incinerator. When we walk out of the confessional, our sins are forgiven. We shouldn't have them "on our conscience", as they say.
But sometimes, we do.
Yes, we have a duty to forgive others. We have to ask for mercy from God. We don't just "get" mercy. It doesn't just "come" as a natural by-product of baptism and having a knee-jerk reaction of saying "And also with you" when people quote "Star Wars" at you (often, all that remains from "small c"-catholic education today). We all know this.
But we should know we need to forgive ourselves.
When you have confessed your sins, leave them in the trash where they belong. Don't dwell on them. Don't let Satan remind you of them. There is a wonderful quote attributed to St. Teresa of Avila: "When the Devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future." It's a little glib, but there is a core of truth there.
Don't dwell on your forgiven sins or be reminded of them, because that is deathwatch-beetle in the soul, eating away at the timbers of your resolution, termites in the heart, nibbling away until this stong temple of the Lord crashes down into a pile of sin and splinters. You sinned. You offended God. You came back on your knees, and the Blood flowed down and washed that away, and you walk in the sun and — hallelujah, glory, harps and trumpets — you are clean again.
That is perhaps a little glib and Protestant-sounding, too. But note the Catholic centrality of it: You asked and you received. You were contrite and you are forgiven. You sought medicine and the Divine Physician healed you.
Forgive yourself when God does. And never let the Devil, or anyone else, let you do otherwise.
Watch Michael Voris expound on out duty of forgiveness in this talk from our fourth annual Retreat at Sea. And if you don't have a Premium subscription, sign up for a free 15-day trial here.
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