Read: Advent and the Power of Forgiveness by Richard Budd, Director of Marriage & Family Life

Can you believe it? God is with us, writes Richard Budd, Director of Marriage & Family Life for the Diocese of Lansing.

Of course, that’s what the name Emmanuel means — God with us. But there is an immensity to this proposition. I can tell you for sure that I have no justifiable claim on the friendship with God. The things I’ve done? I’m a mess.

And yet, St. Paul writes to the Philippians that Jesus “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.” (Phil 2:6-7) He didn’t just befriend us, he became us. He took on our sorrow, our pain, and the consequences for our sin. If a friend could ever say, “I’m with you,” it was Jesus.

Why did God do this?

Paragraph 457 of the Catechism states, “The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God.” That phrase, “reconcile us with God,” is another way of saying he came to forgive us. And more than that, Jesus told us, if we are to be like God, we need to forgive others.

I have seen in my own life the difficulty and the power of forgiveness. Wounds others inflict on us are real, they go deep, and they can cause real damage in our lives. However, withholding forgiveness only prolongs the wound and prevents true healing.

A simple prayer of forgiveness could go like this:

* Ask the Holy Spirit’s grace to help you forgive.

* Imagine the person in front of you and pay attention to your feelings.

* Tell them in your heart all that they did; how they hurt you. It’s okay to feel angry. Tell them what those things did to you.

* Ask Jesus to forgive that person. Then forgive them yourself.

* Ask God to then bless the person in the opposite way that they hurt you. For example, if they lied about you, ask God to bless them so that people only speak the truth about them.

* Thank God for the grace he has given you to forgive.

Advent is certainly a time of festive preparation for the birth of the Christ child, but this year, maybe live Advent the way our Lord himself lived it, by bringing forgiveness to this broken world.

* Image: Jacob Seeking the Forgiveness of Esau by Jan Victors (1619 - 1676), Indianapolis Museum of Art.