Perhaps you know someone who says being Christian is easy. If you do, please introduce me. I do not know a single person who says being Christ-like is easy. And, because I am a priest and study Jesus' life, I believe I can include Jesus himself in the group that says being Christ-like is hard, incredibly hard.
Jesus' agony in the garden was excruciating. His best friends slept while he individually contemplated the zillions of times we rejected him by sinning. That contemplation was so hard, Jesus sweat blood. Later, those same friends would abandon him. Peter, the future head of his Church, would three times deny he knew Jesus, even though, in the Transfiguration, Jesus had shown himself to Peter as God. And Jesus' crucifixion? Get real! It was hours of mind bending, horrific pain.
Jesus did not ask us to suffer emotionally and physically the way he did. However, he does insist we do what he did during the last moments of his life. Jesus requires we forgive all, no matter what they did to us. And my sisters and brothers, that alone makes being Christ-like very, very, very hard.
Perhaps you tell yourself, "He was the Son of God. Sure, he could forgive those who nailed him to a cross, but I'm not fully divine as well as fully human. So, I cannot forgive that fully." Well, if you're saying that, I beg to differ. Let's look at two stories.
The Church's first martyr, Stephen, was stone to death. As he fell to the ground, Stephen was eminitently Christ-like. He mimicked the words Jesus used. Stephen, now Saint Stephen, said, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."
Are you still crawfishing? Are you telling yourself, "Stephen was not fully divine as well as fully human, but he was a saint. I am not." I hope you're not saying that because, even though it's highly unlikely any of us will be canonized, we are all called to be saints. By definition, a saint is anyone who lives a good enough life to get into heaven; and I sure hope all of us are striving to do that.
Nonetheless, let's look at our second story. When the Nazis invaded POland, they killed Ola Schary's husband for trying to hide her. They then sent OLa and her mother to Treblinka. Ola's mom was gassed and burned almost immediately. Ola survived. After the war, Ola emigrated with her daughter to America. Upon arriving, Ola told her daughter that she was passing on the most important thing she had learned from Treblinka, where hundreds of thousands of her fellow Jews had been tortured and killed. Here's what Ola told her daughter, "Goodness is found in forgiveness."
Are we going to let a Jewish woman be more Christ-like than we are? I sure hope not. So, let's go to it. Who are the people in each of our lives that we have not yet forgiven? Let's put their names on a piece of paper and then burn that paper. As the smoke lifts up to the skies, let's pray. Let's pray like Jesus. Let's say, "Father, forgive them." THAT is forgiveness. We don't have to like them. We may even intensely dislike them. But, those are just morally neutral feelings. Forgiveness is a willed act, and our prayer fully qualifies as that willed act. After the prayer, all we need to do is treat those we have forgiven with normal courtesy. Say hello of something similar. Nothing more is required. And, yes, I know that that, in and of itself, is still very hard. But, we are Christians; and, even though, divorced from feelings, forgiveness through prayer and common courtesy remains very hard to do, we do it. Our Savior requires it.