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 serves as the pastoral associate for Dolores Mission Catholic Church and School, a Jesuit parish in Boyle Heights, just east of downtown Los Angeles. Previously, Ellie served as a staff writer for The Tidings Catholic Newspaper, with articles frequently appeared at Catholic News Service, and she also wrote for the website Busted Halo. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola Marymount University. Ellie is the first of five children born to Cuban immigrant parents and a proud aunt to eight nieces and nephews and numerous godchildren.