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Center for Action and Contemplation

The Power of Forgiveness

Friday, September 16, 2022

Father Richard Rohr writes of the power of Jesus’ teachings and lived example of forgiveness:

Among the most powerful of human experiences is to give or to receive forgiveness. I am told that two-thirds of the teaching of Jesus is directly or indirectly about this mystery of forgiveness: God’s breaking of God’s own rules. That’s not surprising, because forgiveness is probably the only human action that reveals three goodnesses simultaneously! When we forgive, we choose the goodness of the other over their faults, we experience God’s goodness flowing through ourselves, and we also experience our own goodness in a way that surprises us. That is an awesome coming together of power, both human and divine.

Eventually, I believe, we will all forgive one another because we have been forgiven, but let’s do it now and not wait until later. Let’s ask for the grace to let go of those grudges and hurts to which we cling. How else will we ever be free?

If we don’t “get” forgiveness, we’re missing the whole mystery. We are still living in a world of meritocracy, of quid-pro-quo thinking, of performance and behavior that earns an award. Forgiveness is the great thawing of all logic, reason, and worthiness. It is a melting into the mystery of God as unearned love, unmerited grace, the humility and powerlessness of a Divine Lover.

Without radical and rule-breaking forgiveness—received and given—there will be no reconstruction of anything. It alone breaks down our worldview of trying to buy and sell grace. Grace is certainly the one gift that must always be free, perfectly free, in order for it to work. Without forgiveness, there will be no future. We have hurt one another in too many historically documented and remembered ways. The only way out of the present justified hatreds of the world is grace.

An eagerness and readiness to love is the ultimate freedom and future. When we’ve been included in the spaciousness of divine love, there is just no room for human punishment, vengeance, rash judgment, or calls for retribution. We certainly see none of this small-mindedness in the Risen Christ after his own rejection, betrayal, and cruel death; we don’t see it even from his inner circle, or in the whole New Testament. I really cannot imagine a larger and more spacious way to live. Jesus’ death and resurrection event was a game changer for history.

The Crucified and Risen Christ uses the mistakes of the past to create a positive future, a future of redemption instead of retribution. He does not eliminate or punish mistakes. He uses them for transformative purposes.

People formed by such love are indestructible.

Forgiveness might just be the very best description of what God’s goodness engenders in humanity.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2001, 2020), 155, 158–159, 162; and

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2021), 72.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 4, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Belinda Rain, Meadow (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 11, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Seeing what is. Acknowledging. Clearing the air. After the vines are ripped from the wall, allowing new growth.

Story from Our Community:

The Daily Meditations lift my spirits while I travel a very difficult journey of deliberate forgiveness. Sixteen years ago, I was raped by someone I grew up with and trusted. For many years I hated him, and I think that was appropriate at the time. Eventually, I was able to shift the energy I expended towards the person who violated me. I even gained the ability to pray for his wellbeing. I know that not everyone has the same experience, but it was very healing for me to begin to understand him as a human being and not simply as a rapist. Forgiveness of this caliber is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. —K.L.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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