Forgiveness in the Family

by Pope Francis

The family is a great training ground for the mutual giving and forgiving without which no love can last for long….

In the prayer that he himself taught us—namely the Our Father—Jesus makes us ask the Father: Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And at the end he states: for if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses (Mt 6:12, 14-15).

One cannot live without seeking forgiveness, or at least, one cannot live at peace, especially in the family.

We wrong one another every day. We must take into account these mistakes, due to our frailty and our selfishness.

However, what we are asked to do is to promptly heal the wounds that we cause, to immediately reweave the bonds that break within the family. If we wait too long, everything becomes more difficult.

There is a simple secret to healing wounds and avoiding recriminations. It is this: do not let the day end without apologizing, without making peace between husband and wife, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters, between daughters and mother-in-law.

If we learn to apologize promptly and to give each other mutual forgiveness, the wounds heal, the marriage grows stronger, and the family becomes an increasingly stronger home, which withstands the shocks of our smaller or greater misdeeds.

This is why there is no need for a long speech, as a caress is enough: one caress and everything is over and one can start afresh. But do not end the day at war!

If we learnt to live this way in the family, we can also do so outside, wherever we may be.

It is easy to be sceptical about this. Many people—even Christians—think it is an exaggeration. It is said: yes, they are fine words, but it is impossible to put them into practice.

But thanks be to God, this is not so.

Indeed it is precisely in receiving forgiveness from God that we in turn become capable of forgiving others.

This is why Jesus has us repeat these words each time we recite the Our Father prayer, that is, every day.

And it is crucial that, in a sometimes pitiless society, there be places such as the family, in which to learn to forgive one another….

Practicing forgiveness not only saves families from divisiveness, but makes them capable of helping society to be less heartless and less cruel.

Yes, each act of forgiveness fixes the cracks in the house and strengthens its walls. The Church, dear families, is always beside you to help you build your house on the rock that Jesus spoke of….

I assure you, dear families, that if you are capable of walking ever more firmly on the path of the Beatitudes, learning and teaching to forgive each other, the capacity to bear witness to the renewing power of God’s forgiveness will grow in the whole of the great family of the Church.

Truly Christian families can do a great deal for today’s society, and also for the Church. Let us pray that families may be ever more capable of experiencing and building practical paths of reconciliation, where no one feels debts.

Excerpted from a general audience at St. Peter’s Square, November 4, 2015