For those who can’t for­give

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By FR. ROLANDO V. DELA ROSA, O.P.

FOR­GIV­ING is dif­fi­cult for those who have been deeply hurt.

Three years af­ter their mar­riage, Anita’s hus­band aban­doned her and their child. Splurg­ing in re­la­tion­ships that en­tailed no com­mit­ment, he be­came a se­rial adul­terer, never once vis­it­ing Anita or help­ing her bring up their child. Hav­ing been a strong woman, Anita moved on. But the pain of be­trayal and re­jec­tion con­tin­ued to haunt her.

One day, af­ter seven years, her prodi­gal hus­band showed up. He told her he had be­come a mem­ber of a Christian group, got con­verted, and now was beg­ging her to take him back. He said: “Anita, for­get what hap­pened. Let’s be­gin again.” Anita stared at him with eyes brim­ming with tears.

Iris DeMent’s song ac­cu­rately ex­presses what she wants to say at that mo­ment: “You say that you’re born again, cleansed of your for­mer sins. You want me to say ‘I for­give and for­get.’ But God may for­give you, but I won’t. You say that you’re born again, well so am I God may for­give you, but I won’t and I won’t even try.”

Anita re­minds me of another woman, Cor­rie ten Boom, who, af­ter sur­viv­ing un­speak­able tor­ture and hu­mil­i­a­tion in Ravens­bruck, a Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp, went on to be­come a great Protes­tant preacher. One day, af­ter she de­liv­ered a ser­mon on God’s for­give­ness, a man ap­proached her and said: “I lis­tened to your ser­mon. I was a guard there in Ravens­bruck, but af­ter the war, I be­came a Christian. I ask you to for­give me for what I have done to you.”

Cor­rie froze. This was the cruel and heartless guard who tor­tured her, and even caused the death of her sis­ter. As he stood be­fore her, ask­ing for for­give­ness, she felt ashamed be­cause in all hon­esty, even af­ter preach­ing about for­give­ness, she could not and would not for­give this man at that mo­ment. She looked up to heaven to pray: “Lord, for­give me. I can’t for­give.”

Kjar­tan Sekkingstad was kid­napped in 2016 and en­dured a ter­ri­ble or­deal in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf. He saw how two of his com­pan­ions were be­headed. Luck­ily for him, the ran­som was paid be­fore his sched­uled ex­e­cu­tion. Upon his re­lease, he told re­porters: “I be­lieve that no mat­ter how bad peo­ple are, there is still some­thing good in them. But these kid­nap­pers are an ex­cep­tion.” Need­less to say, he could not bring him­self to for­give them for what they did.

Many of us can re­late with Anita, Col­lie, and Kjar­tan. Rather than feel­ing guilty for our in­abil­ity to for­give, let us take con­so­la­tion from the fact that when Je­sus hung on the cross, sur­rounded by peo­ple who wanted him dead, He did not say: “I for­give you.” For sure, He wanted to for­give them, but hav­ing been also hu­man like us, when pain and suf­fer­ing so over­whelmed Him, He could not bring Him­self to hon­estly say those words. So He said in­stead: “Fa­ther, for­give them.”

To­day’s Gospel read­ing re­minds us of the need to for­give. But if Je­sus, who is God, found it dif­fi­cult to in­stantly for­give those who be­trayed, cursed, and cru­ci­fied Him, what more of us? God can­not ex­pect us to be more for­giv­ing than Je­sus.

So, when­ever I find it hard to for­give, I turn to God and pray as Je­sus prayed: “Fa­ther, be the one to for­give them be­cause right now, I can­not hon­estly do so. With your grace, heal the hurt and the pain that af­flict me, so I may one day find the strength and the courage to say: ‘I for­give.’”

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