Want to celebrate Easter in the best possible way?

Forgive someone. Let go of a grievance.

Think of those who have wronged you most — the people whose memory fills you with anger. Maybe you haven’t seen them in many years. Maybe they’re no longer alive. But try this during the Easter celebrations: Pray for them. Tell God you’ve forgiven them and you’d like to be free of the anger and hurt.

A great bishop of the fifth century, St. John Chrysostom, preached on Easter that “forgiveness has risen from the grave!”

The Resurrection unleashed phenomenal cosmic powers, and one of them was the power to forgive. Until then, it had been widely acknowledged to be humanly impossible.

Think of the scribes who saw Jesus forgive the sins of a paralyzed man. They said, “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).

They were educated men, and their study of the Hebrew Scriptures might have confirmed them in the belief that only God could forgive. The Book of Genesis speaks of forgiveness only once — in the episode when Jacob’s sons lie to Joseph by claiming that their late father had wanted him to forgive them (Genesis 50:16–17). We’re told that “Joseph wept” when he heard this, possibly because the task seemed too difficult, even for a man renowned for virtue.

Even St. Peter seemed to be looking for a loophole when he asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" (Matthew 18:21). The chief apostle wanted to know the precise moment when he could be excused from the effort because he knew that forgiveness was beyond what he could do.

Yet Jesus insisted on the necessity of forgiveness. He said, “Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him" (Luke 17:3–4).

He even made our willingness to forgive others a precondition of any forgiveness we receive from God: “forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

In case anyone missed the connection, Jesus said it again: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

He even made sure we clicked the box and accepted the terms whenever we prayed the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we won’t forgive, we cannot be forgiven. It’s as simple as that.

Nor is there an escape clause for offenses of greater gravity. Jesus himself, from the cross on which he died, pleaded God’s forgiveness upon his murderers. Among his last words are, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

We must, he said, forgive from the heart (Matthew 18:35).

Was he asking the impossible?

No, not since “forgiveness has risen from the grave.” Jesus’ earliest disciples knew that forgiveness was fundamental to Christian life. St. Paul said in his Letter to the Colossians, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (3:13).

St. John Chrysostom, in yet another homily, insisted upon the necessity of this heroic degree of forgiveness.

Following Jesus’ words, he said, “we are to forgive not merely with the lips, but from the heart.” If we refuse to forgive, he went on, we are harming not those who have sinned against us, but rather ourselves. We are cutting ourselves off from God’s love. He continued: “Let us not then thrust the sword into ourselves by being revengeful.”

He then puts the matter positively and urges us to think of our offenders as benefactors. Their offense is an opportunity for us to forgive — and so open ourselves to greater forgiveness from God. “For [the offender] has given you an opportunity to wash away your sins — so that the greater the injuries he has done you, so much more has he become for you a cause of a greater remission of sins.”

Easter is our annual reminder that we have the power to do the impossible because in baptism we have already died and risen with Christ, whose power is forgiveness risen from the grave. “It is no longer I who live,” said St. Paul, “but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). And also: We can “do all things in him who strengthens” us (Philippians 4:13). We can do all things. We can even forgive sins.

History shows us that this is true. The saints, beginning with the first martyr (Acts 7:60), forgave those who wronged them.

Consider the story of Marietta Jaeger, a Catholic woman whose 7-year-old daughter was abducted and killed in 1973. She chose to forgive her child’s murderer, even though she did not know who he was.

A year after the kidnapping, the man called the family to taunt them. He was taken aback by the love he encountered in Jaeger’s voice. He stayed on the phone and talked with her, even though he suspected the call was being traced. Jaeger told a reporter years later, “I believe God loved him through me, and it penetrated through and touched him."

When the killer was apprehended, she visited him in prison and persuaded him to confess to the crime — and to three other murders. Thus she brought closure to other families who, until then, had not known the fate of their missing children.

Jaeger became an activist opposing the death penalty. Her husband, Bill, could not bring himself to forgive and died relatively young from illnesses brought on by the heartache.

Hers is an astonishing story, but it is not uncommon. She managed to do something that is humanly impossible — forgive — because she called upon the divine life that was available to her.

Most people, perhaps, aren’t called to forgive murderers. But what about a co-worker? A family member? A neighbor? A classmate? An ex?

What if on Easter every Christian forgave one person who seems impossible to forgive?

It’s possible since today “forgiveness has risen from the grave!”