Ordinary 7th Sunday – POWER OF FORGIVENESS
Ordinary 7th Sunday
1Sam. 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 1Cor. 15: 45-49 Lk. 6: 27-38
POWER OF FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness our deepest need, yet the most difficult one to practise.
Corrie – Cornelia ten Boom (1892-1983) – was a Dutch Christian. She and her family helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during the World War II. On account of this, the family was arrested in 1944. Ten days after the arrest, Corrie’s father died in prison. Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to the concentration camp in Ravensbruck. It was here Corrie had to witness her sister Betsie being cruelly murdered. However Corrie survived. In the post war years, Corrie travelled to several countries as a public speaker. Her teaching focused on the Christian Gospel with emphasis on forgiveness. She spoke about her prison experiences and about her family’s role in aiding the survival of the Jews.
Once after her speech in a place in Germany, there stood a man in front of her to congratulate her for her talk. He was a former Ravensbruck camp guard, who was one of the most cruel. He was an accomplice in the murder of Betsie. Looking at him, Corrie was horrified and filled with so much of bitterness and rage. The former camp guard said in a remorseful voice, “I was a guard in the prison you spoke of. Now I am a Christian and believe that God has forgiven me. I wish you will forgive me too.” The man stretched out his hands and asked her, “Will you forgive me?” Corrie went through an emotional turmoil. Just a few minutes back, she talked about forgiveness, but now she is filled with anger and bitterness. Reluctantly she put her hands in his and said a silent prayer, “Jesus, help me. I can stretch my hands, but only you can transform my emotions.” Later on Corrie said, “I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
This incident reveals to us the power of forgiveness, while also underscoring how difficult it is to practice it. It is because in forgiveness our ego gets hurt. The gospel and the first reading talk about the importance of forgiveness. Let us try to reflect how forgiveness can be of great help on three accounts:
Forgiveness helps the Giver:
Normally we think that through forgiveness we do so much of good to the one whom we forgive. But the truth is the first beneficiary of forgiveness is the one who offers it. One of the cosmic laws is that ‘Giver is the first receiver.’ Whatever we give to others, we always give through us. For example, if I wish someone to be well and happy, it is I who first experience that wellness and happiness. On the contrary, if I harbour hatred against someone, that hatred affects me first before affecting the other.
Medical researches reveal that when a person harbours hatred and revenge within oneself, his/her body produces more doses of adrenaline and cortisol – which are named us ‘stress hormones.’ In other words, one who wants to take vengeance upon others creates more stress for oneself. Production of more stress hormones leads to other problems such as tension, restlessness, anxiety and consequently to a host of illnesses, termed as ‘psycho-somatic diseases.’ That is why it is said that the one who wants to take revenge upon others is like a fool who carries charcoal fire in his hands in order to throw upon his enemy. It hurts more the one who carries it.
Forgiveness helps the Receiver:
Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” When we forgive someone who wronged against us, we create a space for that person to look into oneself and rectify one’s life. Forgiveness tries to enliven the divine aspect in the other. In the second reading, St. Paul says that we have both the image of God as well as that of (hu)man. While revengeful attitude hardens the image of man and makes one animalistic, forgiveness enlivens the image of God and helps one to find one’s divine inheritance. In other words, through forgiveness, we help a person to regain one’s divine nature.
Forgiveness helps the Relationship too:
We are all human beings and we cannot completely ignore our vulnerable and weak nature. It is during the moments of vulnerability, we unwittingly hurt even the most loved ones. In any relationship, a certain amount of mutual hurt is unavoidable, though the intensity of hurt may vary from relationship to relationship, and from time to time. In such a situation, only those people who are ready to forgive can elevate their relationship to a higher level. Non-forgiveness stagnates a relationship while forgiveness ennobles and elevates a relationship. Robert Quillen said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
Nelson Mandela, the former and the first President of South Africa, was a person known for his forgiveness. After the freedom, while the blacks were intent on retaliating the whites, and while the whites were thinking that they would be targeted, Mandela, in the first meeting, said, “We forgive the whites. If we don’t forgive, we are not free.” Even while he had been imprisoned by the whites, he refused to condemn them. Though he opposed their oppression, he loved them. It seems that in prison the guards preferred to be appointed in his area. They sought his counsel for their personal problems. When he was released from the prison, it is said that the guards wept.