Forgiveness is Like Resurrection

    One day a truck driver stopped at a restaurant for dinner and ordered a steak. Before he could eat it, in walked a motorcycle gang. They took the man's steak, cut it into six pieces, and ate it. The driver said nothing. He simply paid the bill and walked out. One of the gang members said, "That man couldn't talk. He didn't say a word." Another one said, "He couldn't fight, either; he didn't lift a hand." On his way out of the parking lot, he ran over six motorcycles crushing all of them. Something in us loves that story, because we like retaliation. But in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus prescribes forgiving love as the Christian trump card.

    Immaculee Ilibagiza was a 22-year-old university student in 1994 when terrible violence broke out in her home country of Rwanda. Hutus killed her parents, her brothers, and hundreds of her Tutsi friends. A Hutu pastor, who risked his life to save her, hid her and six other women. They lived in a small bathroom, a wooden wardrobe covering the door. For three months, they endured hunger, fear, and the sounds of soldiers in the house unsuccessfully searching for Tutsis.

    In those cramped quarters, she began to pray the Rosary. Always she stumbled over the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." She knew that the prayer called her to forgive those who had killed her family and endangered her. She didn't think she could do it, but she realized she was consumed by hate. She was afraid she would become like the people who had killed her family. Nevertheless, in her mind, forgiving her family's killers was like forgiving the devil.

    Finally, afraid that her hate would crush her heart, she asked God to forgive those who had done her so much harm. Slowly, with God's help, she was able to let go and forgive her family's killers. Eventually, she even visited one of her brother's killers in prison, taking his hand and offering forgiveness. She says that forgiveness saved her life. "It's a new life, almost like a resurrection."

In the Service of the Lord,
  Fr Thainese Alphonse


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St. Bernadette Catholic Church