On this Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.
Today we read about forgiveness. Specifically, the reading describes how Joseph—stripped and thrown into a cistern and then sold into slavery by his jealous brothers—is now in a position of authority in Egypt with the means to make or break his siblings during a time of extreme famine.
Joseph ultimately forgives his brothers for their offenses—but not before playing some cruel pranks on them. He doesn’t reveal himself to them until well into their second visit, and only after first imprisoning one brother and then framing their youngest brother for the crime of theft.
I can appreciate what Joseph did. More than a few times have I felt slighted by some minor offense or insult. I am usually faced with two choices: forgive or hold a grudge. Often I choose the first option—forgiveness—but only on my terms, and only after I have exacted some minor revenge or other form of self-satisfaction.
Take for example the commute to and from work. I have to admit some of my ugliest moments occur in the car and my least Christ-like behavior takes place behind the steering wheel. For instance, someone might cut me off in his hurry to get somewhere. It wasn’t that long ago that I might react in anger—not overtly dangerously, but still not safely either.
But I still, at times, find myself reacting immaturely, and I find it difficult to surrender the immediate grudge that the minor offense ignites. Rather than give up the anger immediately—turning it over to Christ—I tell Him, “I’ll forgive that other driver, but just give me one moment of self-satisfaction.” Usually that moment takes the form of an angry-yet-superior look when I pass by the driver, glancing over with condescension.
When I find myself doing this, I remind myself of that petition in the Lord’s Prayer:
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors. Matt. 6:12.
In that prayer, I am asking for God’s forgiveness to the same extent and quality that I offer mine to others. So for each brief moment I hold a grudge, I am asking God to hold a grudge against me. And I remember that to God a thousand years is a day. So that one-minute grudge in traffic might cost me over eight months in Purgatory!
Instead of holding onto that grudge, I need to look at how Jesus handled all the insults and abuses heaped on Him—falsely accused, scourged, crowned with thorns, forced to carry His cross, stripped and then hanged on a cross. How did He respond?
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.
After all the severe beating He endured, He begs for the forgiveness of His tormentors. And I can’t let go of a petty grudge?!
Petty or great, nothing I endure compares to the suffering Christ endured for my sins. He doesn’t hold a grudge because of the suffering my sins have caused Him. Am I one for whom He begs His Father’s forgiveness?