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The Importance—and Power—of Forgiveness


In Saint Matthew we read: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and in Saint Luke: And for give us our sins, for we ourselves forgive  everyone in debt to us.

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ForgiveCrossPhoto by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash.

It is the good news of the remission of sins. What a marvel! A movement of our hearts (not easy, it is true, the most difficult perhaps for human nature) suffices for the Father in heaven to pardon the disappointments and wounds we have inflicted on his love. He has pledged it; in his name the Son has promised it to us. It is a fundamental law of the divine economy taught us by the Gospel. How God loves that we love one another! “It suffices that we pardon to have the as surance of divine pardon” (Servant of God Marie-Joseph Lagrange, o.p.(. If I truly pardon there is no doubt that I shall be, that I am already, pardoned. ...

We are here at the heart of the Gospel. ... There is no other commentary on the fifth petition [of the Our Father] than the Gospel itself. Immediately after transmitting to us the Lord’s Prayer, Saint Matthew’s Gospel continues: If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. The parallel passage is given in Mark in another place, on the occasion of the parable of the barren fig tree: When you stand to pray, forgive any one against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions. ... It is said in Proverbs in a text taken up by Saint Paul: if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head (Prv 25:21–22; Rom 12:20). Mysterious coals—not of anger certainly, otherwise how could Proverbs add: and the Lord will reward you, and Saint Paul: Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good? In doing good to our enemies we entrust them to God, we call down on their heads the fire of the divine initiatives and attentions. ... If they let  themselves be won by grace and mend their ways and repent of their sins before God, they will receive the effect of the flames of mercy, in accordance with our wish, and the sins they have committed against us will be forgiven. In forgiving those who have offended us we work in a certain (preparatory) manner that in them evil be overcome by good and that they receive God’s pardon; we contribute, to the extent that it is in us, to increase the sum of good on earth and to cause the work of the Prince of Peace to be accomplished there.

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Raïssa Maritain. "The Importance—and Power—of Forgiveness," from Prayer and Intelligence & Selected Essays. Cluny Media (1664).

Printed in the September 2023 edition of Magnificat. Used with permission.

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The Author

Raïssa Maritain († 1960) was born in Russia and spent her life in France. She was a convert to Catholicism and the wife of philosopher Jacques Maritain.

Copyright © 1664 Cluny Media

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