I was raised in the Methodist Church, but my younger cousin Marilyn was a Catholic. She has always had a good sense of humor, but sometimes it’s misplaced and she goes a little too far. When she was very young she told me that when she went to Confession she’d say her act of Contrition wrong: “Oh my God I am hardly sorry…” just to see if the Priest was paying attention. I can’t criticize her today, as she’s a good Catholic woman. But back then she was a little rascal.
The Holy Father has declared this the “Year of Mercy”. Of course we are always to be merciful, but the Pope is reminding us that mercy is very important in our lives as Catholic Christians. I’ve found that mercy must be given in all situations, no matter what. But forgiveness is only possible when a person is more than “hardly sorry”. True sorrow and repentance are necessary in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in any situation when we have done something wrong. We cannot be forgiven nor can we forgive if there is not sorrow and repentance. So what do we do if someone wrongs us, hurts us, does something horrible and is not sorry at all? We must have mercy, and the person we must have mercy on is ourselves and other innocent people affected by the act. We must “let go” of anger and resentment in order to follow Christ. A heart full of anger and resentment is not a heart full of joy, service and love. The most merciful thing we can do is shake the dust from our feet and go.
Let me give you an example. I know a woman who thought she was happily married. Her husband had a good job and was kind to her. He took her to nice places and appeared to love her. But she discovered that not only was he cheating on her with another woman, he was running an illegal business that she didn’t know about. She confronted him about it with proof and he said “Well, that’s just me. I can’t be tied down to one woman and I have to have the income from this business.” He wasn’t sorry at all. He had been doing this since before they were married. So she talked to her Priest, who verified the situation, and he recommended that after she got her final divorce papers that she apply for an annulment and move on with her life. She did all of that and her former “husband” was still involved with even more women and running the illegal business. He wasn’t sorry at all. He refused to even think of going to the Sacrament of Confession (though she said he still went for Communion at Mass). He wasn’t forgiven by the Church, he continued in his sin.
She found herself stuck in resentment. I met her at a Parish event and she said she would like to talk to me about the anger and resentment that were bothering her a great deal and seriously affecting her relationship with God. She felt guilty and angry at the same time. We made an appointment and we talked about her situation. I repeated words that had been said to me years before: “You’re letting him live rent free in your head. Throw him out!” She said “How?”
I lead her through some meditations (not eastern Philosophy type, but Christian) on how to communicate to her subconscious mind that he was no longer in her life. We worked together for just three weeks when she said that the resentments, anger and guilt were nearly gone.
Society today has this concept that we must forgive even if someone isn’t sorry. We cannot do that. But we must let go of negative things in the past for our own sake. The year of Mercy also means that we must be merciful to ourselves so that we can live in Christ’s love and joy. Some things aren’t our fault, and we still hang on to resentment over them. Let go of it! It’s not doing any good at all to hang on to anger and resentment. It’s one of the most joyful sacrifices we can make, to give up our pride and let go of resentment and move on with our lives, being HEARTILY sorry for our sins and not bothering with anyone else’s sin. Drop resentment into the deepest part of the ocean and live in Christ.