How to Obtain God’s Mercy
“Forgive and you shall be forgiven.”
We would like to share with our readers some examples from the lives of the Saints on how to obtain God’s mercy by forgiving others their offenses against us.
When we say the “Our Father”, we ask God to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And so when we refuse to forgive our neighbor who has injured us, we ask God, in the Lord’s Prayer, not to forgive us our sins. Jesus emphasized this when He said: “For if you will forgive men their offenses, your Heavenly Father will forgive you also your offenses. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offenses,” (Matt. 6:14-15). “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven,” (Luke 6:37).
But in practice it is often difficult to forgive others who have injured us, and costs us a great effort to do so, sacrificing at the same time any desire to repay them with the same sort of things they have done to us. But these sacrifices are as nothing compared with the blessings God will give us in return for showing mercy to others. As Our Lord said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” (Matt. 5:7). Mankind has offended God by sin, and yet in return Jesus gave His life for us on the Cross to merit for us the remission of our sins and to make it possible for us to enjoy eternal happiness in Heaven.
St. John Gualberto
In the Tenth Century there lived in Florence, Italy, a nobleman named John Gualberto. One of his relatives having been murdered, he considered it his duty to avenge the murder. On a certain Good Friday he met the murderer in a narrow lane, where there was no escape, and he was about to slay him, but the man threw himself on the ground with his arms outstretched in the form of a Cross, and begged the nobleman to spare his life for the love of Christ who on that day gave His life and shed His blood for the love of all mankind. Moved by his pleading, the nobleman not only forgave him and spared his life, but leaping from his horse he ran to embrace him, and promised to consider him henceforth as his most dear friend and brother. On his way home, he entered the church, and while he was engaged in prayer, the figure on the Crucifix bowed its head to him, as it were, in recognition of his heroic act of generosity performed for the love of Jesus Christ crucified. Thereupon he renounced the world, entered the cloister, and became the great St. John Gualberto.
St. Anthony Mary Claret
St. Anthony Mary Claret, the founder of the Claretians, was doing a tremendous amount of good for souls in Nineteenth-Century Europe and Latin America. He was so effective in the apostolate by his sermons and miracles and through the publication and distribution of Catholic literature that the anti-religious party in his native Spain fought against him. They knew that by suppressing his work, and by removing his teaching and example from the people, they would thereby remove a lot of their opposition. One of their tactics was to try to give him a bad name by publishing slanderous reports against his character and his good works.
St. Anthony Mary Claret’s reply to the calumnies directed against him was: “I see what they say of me. I can only comment that it is a reminder of the patrimony left us by Jesus Christ.” This is the pay the world accords us. We do well to recall the words of Isaias: “In silentio et spe fortitudo vestra.” (In silence and hope is your strength.) The only words his tormentors could elicit from him were said not to, but for, them: “Blessed be Thou, my God. Give Thy holy benediction to all who persecute and calumniate me; give them, Lord, spiritual, corporal, temporal and eternal prosperity. And to me give humility, gentleness, patience and conformability to Thy most holy will, that I may suffer in silence and love the pain, persecution and calumny Thou dost permit to descend upon me.”
The teaching of other Saints
Let us look also at what other saints have said about forgiving. Saint Philip Neri said: “If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a Crucifix, and think that Christ shed all His blood for him, and not only forgave His enemies, but even prayed His Heavenly Father to forgive them also. Let him remember that when he says the “Our Father” every day (if he does not forgive his enemies), instead of asking pardon for his sins, he is calling down vengeance on himself.”
In the lives of the Saints, we find the words of St. Thomas of Villanova: “Dismiss all anger, and look a little into yourself. Remember that he of whom you are speaking is your brother, and as he is in the way of salvation, God can make him a saint, notwithstanding his present weakness. You may fall into the same faults or perhaps into a worse fault. But supposing you remain upright, to whom are you indebted for it, if not to the pure mercy of God?”
One day St. Peter said to our Savior, as we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew (18:21): “Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? til seven times?” Jesus replied: “I say not to thee, til seven times; but til seventy times seven times”; - i.e. not only frequently, but innumerable times, in fact, always.
The apostle St. Paul admonishes us: “Be ye kind one to another, merciful, forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you in Christ,” (Eph. 4:32).
“How patiently Christ, the King of Heaven, bore with the apostles, enduring at their hands many incivilities, for they were but poor, rough, and illiterate fishermen. How much more ought we to bear with our neighbor, if he treats us with unkindness.” - St. Philip.