When I forgive someone, it is an act of hope.
Through forgiving them, I have hope in the path that this person will take. I have hope for this person’s progress, this person’s conversion. I believe that this person, too, will meet Christ and his or her heart will be transformed. Hope is very powerful because what we hope for, God will grant. There is a passage from Saint Paul that speaks of loving your enemies. Don’t repay evil with evil, but do good to your enemies (Rom 12:17). Paul goes on to say: No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him drink. For by so doing, you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (12:20-22).
The part about burning coals is very strange. When you do something good for your enemy, you heap burning coals on his head? This image of the burning coal goes back to the calling of Isaiah. When Isaiah sees the holiness of God, he feels his great sinfulness. He says, Woe is me. I have seen the Lord, and I am a man of impurity. I live in the midst of a people of impure lips. A seraph takes a burning coal from the altar with tongs and passes it over Isaiah’s lips. He says, Now your lips are purified and your sin is forgiven (Is 6:7). This purification with burning coals is the grace of forgiveness.
When we pile burning coals on someone’s head, it means we’re preparing an effusion of the Holy Spirit. One day these coals on the person’s head will enter into his heart, not in condemnation but as a purification, as a conversion. If, with hope and faith, I forgive this person, I’m accumulating the Holy Spirit over his or her head. One day, the Holy Spirit will enter in and transform the heart of this person, purifying and sanctifying him or her.
Father Jacques Philippe. "What Leads to the Kingdom." from Real Mercy: Mary, Forgiveness, and Trust (New York, NY: Scepter Press 2016).
Reprinted with permission of Scepter Press.
Father Jacques Philippe is a spiritual director, retreat master and the founder of the Community of the Beatitudes. He is the author of Priestly Fatherhood: Treasure in Earthen Vessels, The Eight Doors of the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes, Called to Life, Real Mercy: Mary, Forgiveness and Trust, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, Interior Freedom, Fire & Light, Time for God, Thirsting for Prayer, and In the School of the Holy Spirit. His website can be found here.Copyright © 2016 Scepter Press
back to top