“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven" (Sir 28:2).
This Word of Life is taken from one of the books of the Old Testament written between 180 B.C. and 170 B.C. by Ben Sira, a sage and scribe who carried out his office as teacher in Jerusalem.
He taught a subject which was dear to the whole tradition of biblical wisdom: God is merciful toward sinners and we should imitate His way of acting.
The Lord forgives all our faults because “He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness” (Ps 103:3,8). He overlooks our sins (Wis 11:23). He forgets them, casting them behind His back (Is 38:17).
In fact, Ben Sira goes on to say that aware of how small and poor we are, He “increases His forgiveness”. God forgives because like any father or mother, He loves His children and so He always and untiringly excuses them, covers their mistakes, instills confidence and encourages them.
Because God is mother and father, He is not satisfied with just loving and forgiving His sons and daughters. He ardently desires that they treat one another as brothers and sisters, that they get along with one another, that they love one another.
Universal brotherhood, this is God’s great plan for humanity. A brotherhood that is stronger than inevitable divisions, tensions, hard feelings that so easily creep into relationships due to misunderstandings and mistakes.
Often families break up because people don’t know how to forgive. Past hatreds are handed down only to perpetuate divisions between relatives, social groups, peoples.
At times people even teach others not to forget the wrongs suffered, to cultivate sentiments of revenge; and deaf resentment poisons the soul and corrupts the heart.
Someone might think that forgiveness is a sign of weakness. No, it’s an expression of great courage; it is authentic love, the most genuine, because the most selfless.
“If you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?” says Jesus. “Everyone knows how to do that. Love your enemies (Mt 5:42-47).”
Also we are asked to learn from Him and to have the love of a father, of a mother, a merciful love towards all those who come our way, especially toward those who do something wrong.
To those who are called to live a spirituality of communion, that is, the Christian spirituality, the New Testament asks for something more: “Forgive one another” (Col 3:13).
Mutual love requires that we make a pact with one another: to be ready to forgive one another always. This is the only way we can contribute towards universal brotherhood.
“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” (Sir 28,2).
These words not only invite us to forgive, but they remind us that forgiving others is the necessary condition for receiving forgiveness. God listens to us and forgives us in the measure in which we forgive others.
Jesus Himself warns us: “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Mt 7:2) “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5;7).
Actually, a heart hardened by hatred is not even capable of recognizing and accepting the merciful love of God.
How can we live this Word of Life? First of all, by immediately forgiving anyone with whom we have not yet been reconciled.
But this is not enough. We need to search the innermost recesses of our heart and eliminate even a feeling of indifference, a lack of kindness, an attitude of superiority, of negligence towards anyone we meet.
Furthermore, we need to take some precautionary measures. So every morning I look at people around me, at home, at school, at work, in the store, ready to overlook anything that I don’t like about their way of doing things, not judging them, but trusting them, always hoping, always believing.
I approach every person with this total amnesty in my heart, with this universal pardon. I do not remember their faults at all, I cover everything with love.
And throughout the day I try to make up for having been unkind, for a fit of impatience, by apologizing or by some gesture of friendship.
I replace an instinctive rejection toward someone with an attitude of total acceptance, boundless mercy, complete forgiveness, sharing, being attentive to his or her needs.
So, when I pray to the Father, especially when I ask Him to forgive my mistakes, I am confident that my prayer will be granted. I’ll be able to say with total trust, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12).