A friend on Facebook recently posted an article about a provocative piece of anti-Catholic art, and in his comments, he wondered why do such acts of discrimination against Catholics go unchallenged. He noticed that people are far less inclined to create inflammatory art against other religions, and he mused that perhaps Catholics should be more vocal in the public square. I could not disagree more. The reality is Catholics and other Christians are targeted particularly because of our high ideals. With our tendency to forgive and turn the other cheek, we become a convenient target what people want to attack organized religion.

Along these lines, forgiveness must be the hallmark of Christian discipleship. People will see Christ in us to the extent to which we embrace the continuous art of conversion whereby we practice regular forgiveness. Such an art is not the heroic efforts of a strong will, but a path of surrender whereby we learn to allow Christ into our hurt and anger. In this way, the path of forgiveness must be animated by God’s activity and in cooperation with his will. Anyone who has suffered deep hurt and injustice knows, forgiveness is not a one and done kind of thing.

To truly forgive, we must have the intention to let go of our pain and anger, but we also must come back to the pain time and time again. We must constantly revisit our experience of injustice with each turn allowing the Holy Spirit the opportunity to heal and transform. Thus, with forgiveness there is the initial act whereby we begin the path to healing and then there is the regular practice of bringing everything before the Lord.

In this way, we must begin our practice of forgiveness by observing our pain and anger with a non-judgmental awareness. We must admit what we are experiencing without attaching labels to it or trying to force it away with slogans and clever rationalizations. Having observed the raw, felt experience, we then must bring it before the Lord with complete surrender. Then, we must open our hearts to what the Lord wishes to communicate to us, an openness which is nourished by a loving familiarity with God’s word, particularly in the Gospels.

That is why I suggest that we visit any area in which we need to practice forgiveness in our unscripted time with Jesus. Nothing is off limits to the living dynamism of prayer, and charged emotions are a perfect opportunity to grow in our relationship with God. Today, let us open our hearts the infinite potential of our relationship with Jesus Christ.