by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur – Catholic Exchange
Each day when we pray the “Our Father,” we utter the words “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Think about that for a moment. Do we really want God judging us by the same standard by which we hold others accountable? Ouch! It is easy to give lip service to the idea of forgiveness. It is much harder to actually do it.
People hurt us on an almost daily basis. Some of the slights are small. Someone might cut us off in traffic or be unkind to us in a thoughtless moment. Some wounds are larger. A person purposely hurts us or sets out to spread malicious gossip about us. Some injuries seem truly unforgivable. Someone we love is murdered. Someone abuses our child. A drunk driver hits a car, killing your best friend. A spouse has an affair.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
When we need to forgive and are finding it difficult to do so, we can take a lesson from Immaculee Ilibagiza. Immaculee spent ninety-one days hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women during the Rwandan Holocaust. She tells her heart-wrenching story in Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (Hay House, 2006) She could hear people being killed outside the door. She spent much of her time in prayer but anger still filled her heart. She wanted the people who were perpetrating these horrific crimes against her people to die.
One night she heard screaming and then a baby crying. The baby’s mother had been killed and the baby was left to die in the road. As the baby’s cries grew weaker and weaker, she prayed for God to receive the child’s innocent soul and then asked Him, “How can I forgive people who would do such a thing to an infant?” She says that she heard an answer: “You are all my children… and the baby is with Me now.”… It was such a simple sentence, but it was the answer to the prayers I’d been lost in for days.”
She began to forgive and that forgiveness allowed her to regain her trust in God. Immaculee continues, “Despite their atrocities, they were children of God… I knew that I couldn’t ask God to love me if I were unwilling to love His children.” When she was finally able to leave the bathroom and escape to a French military camp, she learned that all of her family had been brutally killed. She later went to a prison to forgive the man who killed her mother and brother.
I can’t even imagine that kind of forgiveness and yet that is the kind of forgiveness that God calls us to. Immaculee’s story is something to think about the next time we are called to forgive someone who has hurt us.
“I said the Lord’s Prayer hundreds of times, hoping to forgive the killers who were murdering all around me. It was no use, every time I got to the part asking God to “forgive those who trespass against us,” my mouth went dry. I couldn’t say the words because I didn’t truly embrace the feeling behind them. My inability to forgive caused me even greater pain than the anguish I felt in being separated from my family, and it was worse than the physical torment of being constantly haunted.”
– Immaculee Ilibagiza