"Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." - John 20: 23.
The authority to forgive and retain sins was indeed given to the first bishops of the Church and is currently exercised in the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church, but the authority to forgive sins was given to each of us on a much more personal level. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the two sacraments of healing. Open wounds do not heal on their own. Forgiveness acts as stitches that bind spiritual wounds closed and allow the healing to begin.
We have each been given the authority to forgive those who trespass against us. In the “Our Father” we give God permission to only forgive our sins to the same degree as we are willing to forgive the sins of those who have sinned against us. We tell God that it is ok for him, through his Church, to retain our sins and not forgive us for them if we are not willing to forgive those who have wronged us.
If your brother has wronged you the first step of healing that wound is not an apology from him. Healing can only begin by the person who has been wronged. Healing can only begin by closing the wound by forgiving your brother of his wrong.
There is nothing a penitent man can do amend for his wrongs to a god who does not forgive. God, our Father, is a loving God who will forgive our sins and allow us to show our deep sorrow to him through humble hearts and penance.
We in turn need to offer our brother the same kind of forgiveness for the wrongs we have suffered. We give God praise for his great glory when we imitate him and freely and completely forgive those who trespass against us. When we truly forgive from the heart we let go of the pain and suffering the wrong as caused. We close the wound, allow the healing to begin, and are liberated by love.
We live in a world where people want everything to be permissible but forgive nothing. We live in a world of hurt, anger, and hate where everyone seems so easily offended. Now imagine a world full of love and kindness where neighbors do not quarrel over trivial things. That world begins with forgiveness. That world begins with you.
In the next week find at least one person with whom you have had a long standing grudge and do your best to forgive them from the heart. Take that first step to mend an old wound. Let God’s infinite mercy flow through you and see just how liberating forgiveness actually is.