A reader writes about forgiveness

He writes:

Forgiveness is one that has perplexed me for so long. Does God only forgive when we’re a Penitent?

No.  God has not only already chosen to forgive, he has taken the initiative to die and rise for our sins even when we were bent on killing him.  As Paul says:

But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. ¶ For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10)

God is not withholding mercy until we say the magic words or grovel enough to make him happy.  He is holding out mercy to us every second and working every nanosecond of our lives to help move us to that place where we will see it and accept it.  It’s not that he won’t forgive us, it’s that we often won’t receive the forgiveness he literally died to give us.

Or to ask analogously, does the rain fall only when the soil is tilled?

No.  Jesus speaks directly to this about the superabundance of God love and mercy:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:43-48)

The whole point is that God is lavish in his mercy, not stingy.  He doesn’t parse it out only to those who crawl to him.  He gives it even to people who are oblivious and ungrateful for it.

That does not, of course, mean that we should be oblivious and ungrateful, much less impenitent.  It means that we should not only receive the mercy, but be as lavish with it as he is, loving even our enemies as he loved us when we were his enemies.

God has to be the bearer of Mercy and forgiveness.


Penance paves way for the reception of it.

Not quite.  Repentance and contrition pave the way for it.  Penance is the way we enflesh the mercy we have already received.  It is not the way we earn mercy, for mercy cannot be earned.  It precedes, not results from, penance.

One act of Penance is forgiving your enemy. To not to forgive perpetuates the sin and offense of the offender.

In a way.  But unforgiveness of those who sin against us only perpetuates the sin in our own souls.  It can, but need not necessarily, bind the sinner to his sin.  Oftentimes, the person we refuse to forgive is oblivious to us and may go his whole life never knowing we carry a grudge.  In such cases, unforgiveness destroys only ourselves.  It is chiefly for our sake that God commands us to forgive others, so we don’t destroy ourselves with bitterness.

You are pressing sinner and offender as the woman found in adultery to a servile fear with no Penitent heart. And the impenitent unforgiving men about to stone the woman to death. The impenitent is the unforgiving. It is the heart of Pharoah. Your blog on Forgiving is spot on. Thank you,

Thanks be to God through Christ our Lord.

God bless you for your kind words.


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