One of the things I’ve been told repeatedly by older Jesuits is that old age is not for sissies. And you know, neither is Christianity. Even when we’re not paying that much attention, the expectations of our faith are significant. And none more so than Jesus’ words today that we should love our enemies.

At the same time, if a survey was done worldwide, I suspect it would find that the most frequent sin priests hear confessed is the struggle to forgive. As awful as we can be to one another, in my experience most of us really do want to forgive, or at least let go of the pain and the rage we feel inside. Sometimes we are able to. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t.

That’s in a sense the whole point of the sacrament of reconciliation—we come before God to help us do the things that we find ourselves unable to do. Sin reminds us of just how small and weak we can be, and our need for not just God’s forgiveness, but his active intervention in our lives.

One confessor gave me this advice: “Think of forgiveness less as something you yourself have to do and more like a river moving on its own, guided by the Holy Spirit. And rather than try to force it (when you know you can’t), your job is just to try and stay out of its way.

—Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J, a Wisconsin province Jesuit, is an accomplished professional screenwriter who lives at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles CA.