SAINT PETER CHANEL, PRIEST AND MARTYR (OPTIONAL MEMORIAL)
Lord, do not hold this sin against them.
How could Stephen possibly forgive the people who were stoning him to death? Perhaps the answer is that it did not come out of nowhere. Scripture describes Stephen as someone “filled with the Spirit and wisdom” who was working “great wonders and signs” (Acts 6:3, 8). Clearly, the Holy Spirit had transformed his entire life—to the point that Stephen had become like his master, Jesus, who had also asked his Father to forgive his killers.
Can you imagine the reaction of the men stoning Stephen when they heard these words? Instead of cursing them for what they were doing and calling down God’s vengeance on them, Stephen was doing the exact opposite. It must have startled them, to say the least!
Forgiveness is a hallmark of Christianity. It’s the heart and soul of the gospel message, and everyone who experiences it is moved in some way or another. Yet in many ways, it can be unsettling—especially when we read stories of people who have the grace to forgive terrible crimes against themselves or their loved ones. It can even feel unnatural to forgive; resentment, anger, and even vengeance come so much easier and seem more “normal” to us.
But as unnatural as it may feel, forgiveness is not optional for believers. God actually commands us to forgive those who have sinned against us. That includes family members or friends who have hurt us, betrayed us, or failed to help us when we most needed it. God also expects us to forgive even the most minor of offenses, such as someone who snubs us, ignores us, or directs a sarcastic remark to us.
If you are struggling to forgive someone, know that the grace of Jesus’ resurrection is freely available to you this Easter season. If the offense is so serious that you don’t see how you could possibly forgive, just take the first step and ask God to forgive that person for you. Then, day by day, ask him to help you extend the same forgiveness. It might be hard at first, but over time you will begin to experience not only freedom from anger but also the joy of the risen Lord.
“Jesus, help me to forgive anyone who has wronged me. Lord, I want to be filled with Easter joy.”
Psalm 31:3-4, 6-8, 17, 21