today’s readings are all about forgiveness. Here are some thoughts:
Henri Nouwen – Forgiveness is an act of liberation
To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.
Immaculee acknowledges that since the war ended, feelings of anger and hatred for the killers sometimes tempt her at weak moments. “But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn’t wait for them to grow or fester,” she writes. “I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.”
At one point, just as the violence in Rwanda had been quelled and talk of UN-led tribunals had begun, Immaculee returned to Kibuye. There, she visited a prison to meet the leader of the gang who killed her mother and her bother, Damascene. His name is Felicien.
Before the genocide, he had been a successful Hutu businessman known for his expensive suits and impeccable manners. Immaculee recalled in her talk how she used to play with his children. It was Felicien’s voice that she heard calling her name when the killers searched the pastor’s home. Now, here was Felicien, sobbing, his clothes hanging like rags from his emaciated body.
Shamed, he could barely make eye contact with Immaculee. “I wept at the sight of his suffering,” Immaculee said. “He was now the victim of his victims, destined to live in torment and regret.” She reached out and touched his hands and said: “I forgive you.” His Tutsi jailer was furious at this, hoping that she would spit on the man. “Why did you forgive him?” he demanded. “Forgiveness is all I have to offer,” Immaculee responded.
Here is a wonderful prayer about forgiveness that first appeared under the title of the Peace Prayer in France in 1912 in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell). It was published in Paris by a Catholic association known as La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The Holy Mass League),
Lord make me an instrument of your peace Where there is hatred let me sow love Where there is injury, pardon Where there is doubt, faith Where there is despair, hope Where there is darkness, light And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console to be understood as to understand To be loved as to love For it is in giving that we receive it is in pardoning that we are pardoned And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life Amen