In the following selections from Don’t Be Afraid to Say Yes to God, Pope Francis speaks of forgiveness. The Holy Father’s words are followed by questions for personal reflection offered by Fr. Mike Schmitz, inspiring national speaker and director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth.
The Grace to Forgive
Is it possible to forgive totally? It is a grace we must ask of the Lord. We, by ourselves, cannot: we make the effort, . . . but forgiveness is a grace that the Lord gives you. Forgiving your enemy, forgiving those who have hurt you and those who have done you harm.
When Jesus in the Gospel tells us, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” it means this: leave this wisdom of forgiveness, which is a grace, in the hands of the Lord. But we must also do our part to forgive.
—Pope Francis, Dialogue with Italian Young People, World Youth Day, Kraków, Poland, July 27, 2016
Are you trying to forgive someone by your own strength and not making much progress? Pause now, and invite the Lord to give you the necessary grace so that you can forgive.
Do you believe that total forgiveness is possible?
What does God’s desire for total forgiveness say about him and about the life he invites you to live here and now?
Come to the Party
The prodigal son, the son who left home, spent all his money—everything he had—betrayed his father and his family, betrayed everything. At a certain moment, out of necessity, but full of shame, he decided to return. He thought about how he would ask for his father’s forgiveness. He thought he would say: “Father, I have sinned, I have done all these wrong things, so I want to be your servant, not your son,” and lots of other fine things.
But the Gospel tells us that the father saw his son coming from afar. Why did he see him? Because every day he used to go out onto the terrace to see if his son would return. The father embraced him: he did not let his son speak; he did not let him say all that he had rehearsed, and he did not allow him to even ask for forgiveness. Then he went off to organize a party.
This is the party that God enjoys: whenever we return home, whenever we return to him. “But Father, I am a sinful man, a sinful woman . . . ” All the better, he is waiting for you! All the better, and he will throw a party! Jesus himself tells us that there will be more celebration in heaven over one sinner who turns back than for a hundred of the righteous who remain at home.
None of us knows what life will bring us. And you, dear young friends, are asking: “What is in store for me?” We are capable of doing bad things, very bad things, but please, do not despair: the Father is always there waiting for us! Come back! Come back! This is the word: Come back! Come back home because the Father is waiting for me. And if I am a great sinner, he will celebrate the more.
—Pope Francis, Address, Meeting with Asian Youth, Republic of Korea, August 15, 2014
What was your reaction as you read about the Father’s cry for us to come back to him when we have strayed? Did his invitation stir up fears in your heart that have prevented you from coming back to him?
Are you afraid of the Father’s reaction to those dark and broken places?
What, instead, does this passage say is the truth of his reaction to our sins?
The Other Person’s Shoes
As the saying goes: “When you get angry, you lose.” Don’t let your heart give in to anger and resentment. Happy are the merciful. Happy are those who know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, those who are able to embrace, to forgive. We have all experienced this at one time or another. And how beautiful it is! It is like getting our lives back, getting a new chance.
Nothing is more beautiful than to have a new chance. It is as if life can start all over again.
—Pope Francis, Address, Meeting with Young People, Asunción, Paraguay, July 12, 2015
What areas of anger, resentment, or bitterness are currently weighing you down? How is the Lord inviting you to surrender these?
Why is it tempting to hold on to anger and bitterness?
What kind of “new chance” might the Lord be wanting to give you right now?
Excerpted from Don’t Be Afraid to Say Yes to God! Pope Francis Speaks to Yong People Today, with Reflections by Fr. Mike Schmitz (The Word Among Us Press, 2018). Available at wau.org/books