“To err is human; to forgive is divine.”
Though the quote is overused, poet Alexander Pope’s words are especially poignant now as the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis comes to an end in only a few days, on November 20, the Feast of Christ the King. Forgiveness is a critical component of mercy and our ascent to union with God and others. In the final days of the Jubilee Year, we can take a moment to reflect on the spiritual and physical health that forgiveness offers.
Forgiveness is what makes us divine. During his preaching, Christ proclaimed forgiveness of enemies as the definition of Christian life. During his death on the cross, Christ begged his Father to forgive his enemies and torturers.
Pope Francis, when calling for this Jubilee Year, called it “a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.” Forgiveness indeed is a divine grace, an act of letting go or resentment and anger and offering mercy to another (or to one’s self) who has caused harm. The spiritual exercise of confession, another huge emphasis for the year, is the remedy for releasing guilt, anxiety, and tension that flares up and wounds our spiritual life. Though forgiveness is certainly trying on the spiritual level, the results can have bodily manifestations, too.
Did you know forgiveness is also physically healthy? Statistics increasingly show that forgiveness is actually beneficial to bodily and mental wellbeing.
Studies show that people who forgive generally have lower blood pressure, lowered risks of depression, and less stress. They also sleep better, have improved relationships, and stronger heart health overall. Forgiveness allows us to release the anxieties and doubts that harm us.
Once we are able to forgive, we can also be grateful, the proper response toward forgiveness and to end this Year of Mercy. Studies also show that a good dose of gratitude also has its health benefits: decreased stress, increased immunity, and overall increased optimism and happiness.
As it turns out, both Jesus and Pope Francis were looking out for our physical and spiritual health through renewed mercy and forgiveness this year.
Even if your New-Year of Mercy “resolutions” have failed so far, there is always time to engage in the spiritual and physical workout of mercy and forgiveness and to see the life – and soul – changing results.
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