No, this reflection is not about God’s forgiveness toward us although that depth is unfathomable. This reflection is about the depth of our forgiveness of others – a critical topic for November, the month of the souls in Purgatory.
Why are souls there? One reason is to endure the temporal punishment for their sins. They still have a debt of justice to pay. But wait, I thought our sins were forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus? Yes, our infinite debt of justice owed to God was paid by Jesus – the only one who could. But, when we sin, we incur a debt of justice not only to God but to each other.
When I sin against you, I have incurred a debt of justice to you – you have a claim of justice over me. God, as a God of justice, does not usurp your right to that claim. I still must pay that debt to you in this life or the next . . . unless you forgive me. This leads us to the phrase we pray so often, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We must learn to forgive one another. Many of us gloss over that and assume we do. I’d like to challenge that assumption.
What are we going to do when we arrive at the entrance to Heaven and, over Jesus’ shoulder, we see the person who molested our child? They are there because they repented bitterly of their sins, changed their lives even if only at the moment of death, and were forgiven. Are we going to say, “there’s not enough room in Heaven for them and me?” If we do, guess who’s not entering. What will we say when we seen the man who raped us? The terrorist who killed our wife or husband in the September 11th attacks? The con artist who swindled our family out of everything and left us penniless? If Heaven is not big enough for the two of us, it is we who will not be there. Forgiveness is the only way forward for us to inhabit Heaven with our fellow sinners – all who repented.
Are we beginning to see the depth of forgiveness we must extend in our lives. When we see these people in Heaven, are we going to tolerate their presence or hug them and rejoice that they repented of their sins, were healed of their wickedness, and have come to the beauty of holiness? As hard as it may be to envision with those who have hurt us the most, we know it must be the latter by the time we are ready to enter Heaven. We must have forgiven them “from the heart” (Matt 18:35).
Souls in Purgatory are suffering to pay their debt of justice to us. Are we willing to release them? Even the ones who hurt us the most? I know this is excruciatingly, almost impossibly hard for those who have been wounded deeply by other’s evil actions. Impossible except for grace – the grace which flows powerfully from the Flame of Love of Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
May I suggest you take this in prayer tonight. Think of those who have hurt you the most – the absolute most in life – and release them from Purgatory tonight – at least from the debt they owe you.
Now some will say this is important for you – to release you, to heal you, to bring you closure. Yes, maybe, but forget about you in this. Don’t do this for you. Do this for them – for love of them. This is one of the most powerful effects of grace of the Flame of Love – it moves our spirituality from being about us to being about others. Forgive those who have hurt you the most for love of them – like Jesus on the cross – yes, may your feet walk with Him to Calvary. He wasn’t seeking closure or healing. He was seeking the salvation of those who hurt Him the most.
I know this is hard – so easy for me to write but a wound for you that strikes to the center of your heart. But you must. Until we can and can do it for love of them, we are not ready for Heaven. If you are finding this impossible – and it may truly be impossible – please read Matthew 18:23-35 and then plead, plead with our Blessed Mother to spread the effect of grace of her Flame of Love over your heart to make it like hers and her Son’s. Then, you can do the impossible.
Let us release many souls from Purgatory tonight – not just nameless souls by means of our Flame of Love prayers but the faces we see seared into our most painful memories by means of our forgiveness. By God’s grace, in his presence and the presence of the one who has hurt us the most, may we pronounce those priceless words, “I forgive you.” Peace.