The Strength to Forgive

11 Jul

What does it take to forgive? In our media-saturated world increasingly focused on scandal and violence, we rarely see public examples of reconciliation. In March of 2000, Pope John Paul II arrived in Israel for a historic visit to the holy land. His mission was simple: to dialogue, to love, and to seek forgiveness.

Perhaps the climax of this trip was a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Amid a historical record that has seen violence at times perpetuated by Christians in the name of Jesus against their neighboring Jews, John Paul II offered a prayer of forgiveness. He wrote,  “[W]e are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.”

Pope John Paul II at the Wailing Wall

Pope John Paul II at the Wailing Wall

The prayer offered is a foundational act of the Church–to be reconciled with others, to both offer and seek forgiveness. There are many (perhaps now reading this) who tremble at the thought of entering a church, let alone to sit, stand, or kneel in attendance at a Mass. There are some who have felt injustice and been wronged by a member of the Church. Their experience may have caused them to grow cynical and disaffected. They may even view the Church as out of touch and unapproachable.

For those who live everyday with an experience like this–we are deeply sorry. To be called to a life of Christ is to be called to be reconciled with one another. The Church aims to bring all together for dialogue and to seek forgiveness for past wrongs. And, however clumsily She may have done so in the past and present, She still offers a hand to all seeking reconciliation and peace. It is a hard but beautiful thing to say to another, “I forgive you,” but it may change–and save–your life forever.

– Tim DeCelle

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