As Marion and I travelled to go get the ice cream for last night’s post-mass event, I got rear-ended and then the driver bolted the scene. Neither of us got hurt but, I was astounded that someone would readily leave the scene of the accident, but I’m sure she had her reasons. Two parishioners actually witnessed it, so we were grateful for them and the police who responded quickly.
What I was more surprised at actually was how calm both Marion and I remained. We were able to stay focused and even refused an offer of coffee or tea from our witnesses as we pulled into a coffee place.
Here’s an even more surprising thing. For the past year, I’ve been very focused on the call to forgiveness. After writing about Forgiving Osama Bin Laden in The Buffalo News, I started to try to practice what I preach a lot more. We finished our police report and then headed to mass. I looked at Marion and said, “Well, we’re about to go to mass now. Let’s put this behind us because I have a job to do first of all and the students deserve my attention. So let’s just forgive this woman who hit us now. I’m sure she panicked for a reason and bolted and it had less to do with us and a lot more to do with her.”
Marion agreed. Forgiveness doesn’t make what she did OK. Nor does it mean that justice won’t be served to her by the police. Forgiveness and justice and reparations are not mutually exclusive.
Fr. Jack told a great story last night in his homily of someone who showed an extraordinary strength in forgiving someone. In South Africa, a woman’s son was shot and killed. They dragged his lifeless body back to his home and then brought out his father and killed him as well. Then they took the bodies and buried them in a place only known to them. The wife and mother left behind didn’t even know where they were buried.
Eventually, the authorities brought one of the murderers to justice. They asked the woman what she wanted to be done to him. She replied softly, “This man took everything away from me except my ability to love.”
She asked that he bring her two handfuls of dirt from her husband and son’s grave and then she asked that he come and see her once a month. That’s it.
While she showed far more tremendous compassion than I did yesterday, I think our main thrust is the same….
All that is needed for someone to forgive is that one makes a decision to do it. It’s an opportunity to no longer let hate have power, for it can only serve to destroy us further.
So today, let us pray for those who we are called to forgive. Let us pray that we have the strength and courage to forgive others. And may God give us the strength to seek to be forgiven when we are in the wrong as well.