Good Friday and giving forgiveness

Forgiveness is not a new concept. It is not a new therapy. It is not a new skill. It is not a new strategy. It is not a new process for helping couples improve their relationships.
Forgiveness is an integral part of every major religion. It is an act and a skill that is part of the moral self. And it is a slow process.
Jesus on Good Friday afternoon forgives those who nailed him to a cross. He says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23: 34). These are powerful and healing words. He transcends all feelings of anger and resentment. He rises above the mistrial. He forgives.
Jesus shows compassion toward the executioners. Despite their unjust and unfair act, he sees them as vulnerable and weak human beings. He sees them as having worth despite what they have done. He sees them as worthy of respect. He separates the behavior from the person.
Jesus sees them as having unconditional worth. He views them as worthy of respect regardless of what they do. He defines them by their intrinsic qualities and not by their behaviors. He forgives them.
Jesus forgives and does not die an angry young man. He believes forgiveness is the ultimate moral imperative. He believes if you let go a little you have a little happiness. If you let go a lot you have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely you are completely free.
Jesus met the cross many times during his life and each time gave forgiveness. He met mistrust and misunderstandings and gave forgiveness. He met harsh judgments and false accusations and gave forgiveness.
Jesus knew full well that forgiveness did not mean forgetting or condoning. It did not mean denying or whitewashing. It did not mean rationalizing and excusing. Rather, for Jesus forgiveness is a deep letting go of any hurt, any resentment, and any need to retaliate.
Like Jesus, all humans can be hurt and can be wounded. We can be mistreated and abandoned. We can be traumatized and abused. We can have parental love deprivation. And at every step, we are called to give forgiveness. That is not easy.
Jesus’s behavioral model for all difficult moments is to let go. It is to let go of the envy and the jealousy. It is to let go of the blaming and the excusing. It is to let go of the bitterness and the pain. It is to let go of the retaliation and the hatred.
Jesus knew that forgiveness is the secret to happiness and serenity. It is the secret to transformation and conversion. It is the secret to inner freedom. It is the secret to a fulfilling and satisfying life.
Jesus practiced giving forgiveness throughout his whole life. Frequently, he could erase hurts and heal wounds. “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy times seven times” (Mt 18:22).
Forgiveness is good medicine for the body and the soul. It lowers the heart rate and lowers one’s blood pressure. It reduces anxiety and reduces depression. It can repair relationships and breathe new life into a marriage and a family.
A holy exercise for Holy Week to help you give forgiveness could be to close your eyes. Think of someone who hurt you. The offense might be small or big. The perpetrator could be a friend or a spouse; it could be a parent or a stranger.
Then, let all the anger and all the resentment bubble to the surface. Feel your heart pounding. Feel your stomach churning. Feel your thoughts racing. Now stop. Forgive your offender. Wish him or her well. Move on whether he or she is sorry or not. The rewards are immeasurable.

Msgr. Thomas J. Morgan is a retired priest of the Diocese of Camden.