Have you ever been wronged by someone? Have you ever been sinned against by another person? Of course you have, so long as you are human.
Which would you say hurts more: when someone sins against you in your presence or not in your presence? If you witness someone commit a wrong against you and they later lie to you about, does it not hurt more since you know they are lying? Isn’t the sting of it all that you were there, right there, when the wrong was committed?
“How could they?” you wonder. “But I was right there. Right next to them. Did they not see me?”
The tale is as old as time. There stood Adam, right next to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Some translations put Adam shoulder-to-shoulder with Eve as she ate from the forbidden tree. He was right there. How could he not act? How could he not protect her? Perhaps more, God was right there, too. He walked among them.
I think of all the times I’ve been wronged in my life, all of the times I’ve been wronged when the person committing the offense was right there, in my presence. They’ve all stung, to say the very least. But when I take a step back and look at it more objectively, I realize that I do the same thing to God. There is not a single time in my entire life that I’ve sinned and He wasn’t right there. Closer to me than a breath.
If I feel heartbroken at the times I’ve been wronged by another, how must God feel when I fall short of the perfection He created me for? He, too, was right there, beside me and in me (Eucharistically speaking). I shudder to think at how I’ve broken His heart.
Yet He doesn’t turn to me with disdain or disgust and say, “How could you? I was right here. Right beside you. Did you not see Me? Do you not see my pierced hands and feet? All of this for you and still you turn away?” Instead, with a pierced and bleeding heart He turns to me and says, “My mercy is yours. I’m not leaving. Though you fall short, though you push me away, by your side I will always be. Closer than a breath, deep in your heart. My Father created you, He knit you in your mother’s womb. I know you and I love you – even when you turn away.”
When He created us in His image, He created us with the hope that we would forgive and be as merciful as He is to us. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” remember? If He is closer to us than a breath when we sin against Him (as all sins ultimately are) and He still forgives us, should we not also – however difficult – strive to show others the same mercy?
In those moments when we most struggle to forgive and be merciful, in those moments when we feel most wronged, even justified in our anger, we turn to Christ on the cross, pierced for love of us. If He is nailed to the cross over and over with each sin we commit, can we not pick up our own cross and forgive those who wrong us?
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. In the same manner. The same forgiveness we show to others is the same forgiveness we shall receive.
Difficult? You bet. Thanks be to God, then, that we have a perfect example of unconditional mercy in Christ.