The forgetting of wrongs is a sign of true repentance. But he who dwells on them and thinks that he is repenting is like a man who thinks he is running while he is really asleep. St John, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”
My grandmother use to say “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget.” Well, then, is there real forgiveness then? Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t learn lessons from past behaviors, but the temptation to hold a grudge is too strong not to take seriously the power of memory to hold bitterness in our hearts. Not to mention the power of memory to hold our own sins against ourselves forever and thwart the power of God’s own forgiveness to set us free from the debilitating power of despair over our past wrongs. Learning to forget as God forgets our sins is a lesson we must learn through love, prayer, and trust.
This brings us to the third lesson of St. Mary of Egypt.
3) The Freedom of Forgiveness. St. Mary was said to pray daily for every person she had ever wronged or had led astray by her past, sin-filled, life. Notice it doesn’t say she was forever re-living her past wrongs or even remembering the “bad childhood” she may have had, or all the ways she was mistreated in her life that “drove” her to her evil lifestyle. No, she prayed for the persons she wronged. She prayed to God to set her free from the power of sin and death. And, at the end of her life, she was a personage of light and freedom that wasn’t bound by the mere limitations of this world. She proved the scriptures that declare “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27
Today, what past wrongs still hold you in prison? Wrongs that were done to you and wrongs that were done by you always stand crouched at the door of your soul ready to enslave you into despair, anger, fear, and doubt. But, in these last saving days of Great Lent, we are invited by the memory of St. Mary of Egypt to embrace the “Good News” of forgiveness given to us by God and given to others by us by His divine grace and love. Are you experiencing the freedom of forgiveness today? You can, and you should. The great gift purchased for us by Christ’s life and death and resurrection is enough to overcome all the sins ever committed in the world by all men. That should be sufficient for your mistakes, don’t you think?
Today, accept forgiveness and receive it as well.