Today we will focus on mercy as it applies to motherhood in the Spiritual Act of Mercy: Forgive all Offenses Willingly.
Forgiveness is difficult to live, and as we have seen with each Work of Mercy, it is crucial for us to have a true understanding of Christ’s forgiveness and love for us if we hope to live it well. We are always presented with a reciprocal relationship between our ability to forgive and God forgiving us: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” God’s forgiveness and mercy are free. We know that “by his stripes we are healed and forgiven.” But if we are not willing to forgive others, then we are lacking a true and proper perspective of our own need for forgiveness. And in fact, we are asking that God withhold forgiveness of our own sin when we withhold our forgiveness of another! We also read, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).
We must teach our children what it means to forgive. It is crucial that they see us forgive, that we ask for their forgiveness when we need to, and that they see forgiveness as a virtue constantly needed and practiced in our home throughout their lives.
One of the unexpected surprises of motherhood is our need to forgive our children. We may find ourselves struggling to forgive all offenses willingly, especially as they become teenagers. It can also be surprising that motherhood reveals where we have not forgiven others in our lives. We discover hidden places in ourselves that are holding onto wounds given by our own parents or siblings or past relationships. We are never done forgiving. That is why Jesus puts it at the center of our daily prayer. Right after we ask the Father for our daily bread, we ask for the grace to forgive and then to be forgiven. And we must also show forgiveness and mercy to ourselves. This is often the hardest to exercise. We make mistakes, we sin, we are selfish and flawed, and all of that affects those around us. We know that motherhood as a vocation affords us endless opportunities to be refined and to grow in holiness. Growing in forgiveness is a huge part of that refinement.
When I talk to my kids about forgiveness, I read them this Scripture verse: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). I ask them how deep they think the sea is. When I forgive them, I often pretend I am taking their sin and throwing it into the “sea of forgetfulness.” What a beautiful image of how far our loving and merciful God casts our sins from us. We can forgive ourselves because he first forgave us. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a home rich in forgiveness—one where forgiveness is asked for and received. I often remind my children that we cannot always forget the offenses against us the way God chooses to forget our offenses against him, but we must always offer forgiveness. One of our greatest opportunities to show the love of Christ to our children is through our willingness to forgive. May our homes be places rich in forgiveness and rich in love.