The radical hope in today’s first reading imagines a fallen, leaderless people creating a pathway back to God. That road is made with the bricks of a contrite heart and a humble spirit deciding to trust in God’s great mercy. Then in today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to mirror God’s abundant mercy in our interactions with others. It isn’t enough to just forgive someone’s debt, says Jesus, we need to do so from our heart.
I remember when a former gang member returned to my neighborhood and painted a beautiful mural in honor of the mothers who had endured the misery he caused as a teenager threatening other teens. He even came to Mass at Dolores Mission and publicly asked the mothers of the community for forgiveness. Teresa immediately jumped up from the worn pew in our small church and hugged Fabian saying that of course she and the other mamás forgave him. She was overjoyed to see him in recovery from addiction and creating a good life for himself and his family. Her heart was overflowing with the desire to forgive all his trespasses.
Seeing the shape of Teresa’s heart that day challenges me whenever I find myself mentally justifying a grudge. We are called to live with hearts of mercy, because that’s where the joy is.
Lent is a good time to ask ourselves—whom do we need to forgive but find it incredibly hard to do so? Paradoxically, perhaps the first step is to take stock of where we need to be forgiven and then imagine God jumping out of the pew to hug us back into wholeness.
Ellie Hidalgo is co-director of Discerning Deacons, a project to engage Catholics in the active discernment of our Church about women in the diaconate and to contribute to the renewal of the diaconate for our times. Previously, she served as pastoral associate at Dolores Mission Church and School in Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles, CA. Ellie received her master’s in pastoral theology from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is based in Miami, FL.