The gospels show that throughout his public life Jesus challenged his hearers.  He challenged them to grow in faith, to accept a new message.  He told them they must go beyond the legalism of the Scribes and Pharisees.  “For I tell you, if your righteousness does not surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will never get into the kingdom of Heaven.”  (Mt. 5: 20)

The Scribes and the Pharisees thought salvation consisted in following the many rules and regulations based on the Torah which had been developed over the years.  They thought they knew perfectly what God wanted of them and what was needed for salvation. .  Jesus told them they didn’t have it right.

Jesus went on to detail ways in which his message went beyond the law.  (Mt. 5: 38-48)  He focused on relationship with one’s neighbor, on forgiveness and reconciliation. One of the great challenges Jesus presented to his hearers was to be forgiving. When we        experience a hurt (real or imagined) we begin to realize how difficult it is to forgive one who has hurt us.   The natural reaction to an offense is to feel persons should be made to pay for any injury they have caused.  That natural reaction includes at least some degree of hatred.  But Jesus was very clear about the need to forgive.  Included in the prayer Jesus himself taught his followers is the plea to be forgiven in the measure we forgive others.
Unless we are forgiving we render ourselves incapable of receiving forgiveness.  This is illustrated in the parable of the unforgiving debtor.  (Mt. 18: 23-35) Refusing to forgive his fellow servant he made himself incapable of receiving his master’s forgiveness.  Someone expressed the idea well saying: the one who refuses to forgive burns a bridge over which he himself must pass.

Pope Francis has designated this year as a Year of Mercy and has called on the faithful to celebrate this year of mercy by recalling the great mercy God has shown us and by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Among the spiritual works of mercy is forgiving.  Jesus is the perfect model of forgiveness.   In the midst of his terrible suffering on Calvary he prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they     are doing.”

The most basic, in fact essential, step in the process of forgiveness is rejecting any hard feelings of hatred and simply wishing that things go well for the one who offended us.  If we can manage that we have forgiven.