Posted by: liturgicalyear | April 16, 2010

Spiritual Works of Mercy: To forgive offenses willingly

In this Easter season, mercy flows.  So I thought I’d reflect how we can actively live the spiritual works of mercy.  Here’s a quick review: 

  1. Instruct the Ignorant
  2. Counsel the Doubtful
  3. Admonish the Sinner
  4. Bear Wrongs Patiently
  5. To forgive offenses willingly
  6. Comfort the Afflicted
  7. Pray for the Living and the Dead

A great place for me personally to start is to forgive offenses willingly.

We all have a God given temperament.  Some people are naturally softer and calmer and less rough around the edges.  Some people, like me, are not.

Couple that with hurt we all experience and endure in this life, and sometimes forgiveness is hard to come by.

First and foremost forgiveness is an act of the will.  It is not a feeling.  When Jesus said 7 x 70, he really knew what he was talking about!

So what can we do?  Go first to scripture. 

Planting scripture in our memory & our hearts & calling it to mind when we are convicted by the Holy Spirit of our selfishness and sin is the remedy.  Scripture forms our intellect and grace guides our will. 

Use God’s Word.  It is “living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Heb 4:12)  It is active and effective: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Is 55:11)  When the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray scripture in the moment, it is God’s work in us to help us to grow in holiness.

Let’s consider two scripture passages: 

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Cor 13:4-7)  We’ve heard a million times, but let’s apply it in a different way.

When I brood over injury, I lack love.  Just as Christ’s love on the cross brought us forgiveness, so too, is our love the road to forgiving others.  I repeat this 1Cor verse again & again.  Eventually, I decide for love.  God’s word softens my heart and my pride.  It is a decision, an act of the will, in which I grow in the virtue of humility. 

Anger often accompanies unforgiveness.   The letter to James tells us ” Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.”  (Jas 1:19-20 )  Commit this to memory and pray it in those moments of struggle.

When hurt and unforgiveness lead to anger, know that this anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God.  Ouch!  That conviction alone will lead you to being slow to speak and slow to wrath.

Equally important to making a decision to forgive is to pray for healing.  Most often our lack of forgiveness is rooted in hurt.  An offense touches a hidden or an obvious hurt.  Only God can fix that, and if we ask, He will.  What loving Father doesn’t want to heal the hurts of His child?

So today and in this Easter season, work on memorizing scripture to help you grow in mercy.  I print it out, keep it with my daily prayer stuff, or tape it up at the kitchen sink & the bathroom mirror.  Choose one that’s doable.  If memorizing is hard for you, make it a short one.  And always pray to the Holy Spirit before you start.

Take a moment to listen to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s words on forgiveness.


  1. […] forgive offences willingly; […]

  2. Thank you, I was looking for a good description of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and a bonus you set it with Easter in mind. God Bless!!!!

    • The Corporal Works of Mercy, being more visible, are often accentuated. Sometimes the invisible journey of the heart in the Spiritual Works of Mercy is more difficult. Anne

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: