It’s a pretty basic point: you can’t be Christian unless you are prepared to forgive. It’s something that is abundantly clear in Christ’s teaching and we can be left in no doubt that we are all expected to forgive one another if we are to be true to Jesus.
Yet this call is seemingly never put into practice. We are often prepared to talk the talk when it comes to forgiveness, but we are rarely prepared to walk the walk. It is in this sense that the Pope’s words are timely. As Christians we undoubtedly need to be reminded of Christ’s call to forgive all people, even when they have committed the worst crimes and atrocities against us. This is, of course, very hard for us. That is not in doubt. But then Christian living is a challenge! Living as a Christian goes against the grain of modern society and modern living. It requires us to protect life from conception until natural death, it requires us to love all people without exception, and it requires us to forgive no matter what.
As the pope says: “If you can’t forgive, you are not a Christian. You may be a good man, a good woman….but you are not doing what our Lord did. What’s more, if you can’t forgive, you cannot receive the peace of the Lord. And every day when we pray the ‘Our Father’: forgive us as we have forgiven those….it is a condition.”
The pope also urged priests to make sure they are merciful otherwise they shouldn’t be hearing Confession. He said: “If you are a priest and you can’t manage to be merciful, tell your bishop who will give you a job in administration, but please don’t go into the confessional box! A priest who is not merciful does a lot of harm in the confessional box!”
He then encouraged more humility among Christians saying: “Which of us can say this, that the other person is more of a sinner than me? None of us can say this! Only our Lord knows this.”
Put bluntly, there should be nothing that is incapable of forgiveness, and there should be no person who is not entitled to receive our forgiveness.