Just as Holy Scripture indicates in various passages, there is a dramatic struggle that takes place in the life of each person. The inevitable sorrows and conflicts in this “vale of tears” can either crush or purify us, depending on our response.
The first choice is to sink into bitterness and resentment over the wounds—nursing them, cataloguing them, and keeping tabs on those who have caused the injuries. This choice is self-destructive both in its present form and in the world to come, because those who have not forgiven will not find the mercy of God.
The second choice is indifference—to reject the possibilities of intimacy and sincere collaboration in order to avoid the pain that accompanies love. To refuse to love means to deny oneself authentic communion with others through whom we find God Himself.
The third choice is to follow the example of the Lord, Who forgave from the Cross in His deepest anguish. The link between His words: “Forgive them for they know not what they do,” and “Behold your mother” reveals that motherhood is intricately tied to both suffering and forgiveness.
Mary is the ladder by which God came to earth, and by which we return to the Father. Christ entrusted all souls to her, and the feminine vocation reflects this responsibility. “The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way … a woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting” (MD, 30).
If a woman chooses not to forgive, then those entrusted to her care are denied the prudent guidance that accompanies her choice to forgive. Resentment binds a soul in darkness, so that it is incapable of finding true wisdom—and that wisdom is an integral part of the “feminine genius” so essential to this world.
On the other hand, forgiving injuries—whether at the hands of loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers—doesn’t belittle the offense, but rather brings a clarity of vision that will reveal right action, the proper response, and the grace of healing. Leaving judgment to God alone, forgiveness has the power to end patterns of self-destruction that often cage entire families for generations. It can free those bound by hate or self-pity.
The Bridegroom taught forgiveness, and the bride who “lives his life” (MD, 27) must share this response, so that her maternity can foster life here and in eternity. There is no doubt that Jesus knew how hard this would be. “Jesus enters into the concrete and historical situation of women, a situation which is weighed down by the inheritance of sin” (MD, 14). Part of the difficulty of bearing motherly hearts is the particular vulnerability to which women are prone—and yet He knew that even His own mother’s heart would be pierced by a sword.
But Mary persevered and triumphed at the foot of the Cross, taking into her heart those who denied her Son. Such is the power of forgiveness, and we must do the same. In doing so, a woman “becomes an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people, who perceive the great energies of her spirit. These ‘perfect women’ are owed much by their families and sometimes by whole nations” (MD, 30).
God counted on the courage of women, entrusting His entire plan of salvation to one in particular. May we all be worthy of that trust, and advance His life-giving mission through forgiveness—for in this alone are we purified and capable of guiding those around us who struggle still.