Life in pre-Christian times

Learning Latin was hard work. Later when I began reading authors like Tacitus and Suetonius I was fascinated by the amazing but brutal Roman civilisation. I recall vividly the 15,000 Roman soldiers drowned and slaughtered at the battle of Lake Trasimene and the emperor Nero’s numerous attempts to poison, suffocate and drown his mother Agrippina. Forgiveness was evidently not a mark of pre-Christian societies.

A transforming moment

When, while dying on the cross, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23.34), it was a transforming moment in history. For, in one way, the Jewish faction who plotted Jesus’s death knew exactly what they were doing in their planning and shrewd manipulation of the crowds and the Roman administration. Yet, in another way, they were ignorant – oblivious to how this innocent man’s death would bring courage and inspiration to millions who would later gather around the image of his cross.

How forgiveness can heal

Modern medicine has shown us how high levels of stress can affect us profoundly, both psychologically and physically. It can lower our immune system making us much more liable to asthma, diabetes and ulcers. Deeply repressed anger and refusal to forgive can destroy not only the joy of life but can eventually erode even our will to live.

While we resent, hate and refuse those who have harmed us, they continue to wreck havoc in our lives. Instead, if we let go of such feelings by forgiving those who have abused us, we free ourselves from multiple burdens.

Forgiveness is profoundly Christian but it is also new life for all those who walk this way.

Father Neil Vaney

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 7, ‘Sacraments of Healing’ referencing page 14. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 7’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.