Have you ever been Forgiven?
We have just come back from our 2-weeks pastoral exposure and indeed it has been a great time – many experiences and stories. Thilo and I were placed here in Davao, in Balay Pasilungan (Bapas), a house which cares for street children. It is a shelter where the children can sleep, eat, have a “house”, and even go back to school if they want.
What struck me very much in the children’s behaviour was the great lack of mercy that they have. One will always hit another; the last has to take revenge on the first, and if he can’t reach him, he will damage his belongings. I could notice a complete absence of forgiveness.
But probably those kids are not guilty. Maybe they have never been forgiven. Maybe nobody shows them mercy. Perhaps they have always been punished, even when they did something good. They only know the law of the strongest, the law of the street. They don’t know what forgiveness is, what mercy is.
I myself have had a number of experiences of forgiving and being forgiven, and all of them are full of joy. In the Bible we find many stories of forgiveness as well. Last week, in the weekday Masses, we read in the first book of Samuel (1 Sam, 24) how David spared Saul’s life, because Saul is the anointed of the Lord, even if Saul was looking for David to kill him. But David’s forgiveness made to change Saul and he didn’t go after David anymore.
Forgiveness is the only way toward peace. Forgiveness has a great healing effect. The forgiven and forgiver feel peace inside. They don’t have to spend more energy thinking about their foe – both feel a kind of relief. The bigger the fault you forgive, the more mercy you show. And also the more you are forgiven, the more grateful you feel.
These two examples, the kids in Bapas and the story of Saul and David, have made me realize that if we want to change this unjust world, we have to do so, necessarily, through mercy and forgiveness. We have to approach our brothers and sisters with mercy and make haste to forgive their offences. This is part of the kernel of our Christian faith. It is even a sacrament. But there is an essential element in forgiveness: humility. Pride doesn’t allow us to forgive the person who offended us, and also pride is what doesn’t allow us to ask for other’s forgiveness.
All of us, Christians, are called to be Christ’s helpers in his mission of redemption of humankind. We have to bring God’s love to all human beings. Let us imitate Jesus and let us approach our brothers and sisters humbly and in mercy and forgiveness. Let us change the world. Let us show God’s mercy and forgiveness.