November 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 4
Forgiveness Is for Everyone
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
(Matthew 6: 12 New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition)
Several years ago a dear friend was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. The tumor was embedded so deeply and tangled so tightly around the connective tissues that doctors deemed any operation too risky as long as the tumor never got any bigger. This woman was in her mid-thirties, married with three little girls, and most important, was a Christian with an unshakeable faith. Long story short, the tumor grew and she underwent an innovative-type surgery followed by a period of aggressive radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment was so rigorous that she was hospitalized for chemo poisoning. Her family was called in and her priest came to perform Last Rites.
I prayed for her from the initial diagnosis, through the monitoring of the tumor's growth, during the time of the actual operation, and finally, throughout the post-operative stage. I prayed for a full and speedy recovery for my friend, strength for her loved ones, and protection for those children.
This woman survived and lives today "without any evidence of there ever having been a tumor." I credit this miracle to her unyielding faith and the many prayers lifted up on her behalf.
About six months after that near-death point and the beginning of a somewhat ebbing of the crisis, she discovered that her husband was having an affair and had been involved with this other woman during the entire ordeal, even at the time of her impending death. When my friend told me of the affair, needless to say, I was horrified. I assured her I would continue to pray...which I did for her and her little girls. But I did not pray for her husband; he was, after all, a cad and deserved no prayers. When a mutual friend and I were discussing what a low-life he was, I vowed that should I ever run into him, I would never speak to him again.
In January of that next year, I was sitting in the sanctuary one Sunday when our minister challenged the congregation to accept a new job in the church to celebrate the new year. I looked over the volunteer sheet inserted into the bulletin and decided I'd make a fine greeter, one who stands at an entry door to the church and welcomes worshipers to God's house.
One morning while was greeting, I'd been at my station for about five minutes when I saw my friend's former husband. He dragged up the steps, his shoulders slumped, and his face deeply scored in forlorn thought. As he lifted his head and saw me, a smile spread and his pace quickened as he came in my direction. To my astonishment, we not only talked, we hugged. Neither of us spoke while we embraced. When words came, the conversation remained on a neutral and light ground, never straying into his personal life. Later when I entered the church to join the congregation for the service, we began a time for silent prayers. As I closed my eyes, tears rolled down my cheeks and I prayed for myself, asking God's mercy for withholding forgiveness to this man.
It's easy to pray for the victims and wronged-parties of this world; it's praying for those who, in our minds, are the instigators of trouble and the evildoers that is the challenge. I continue to pray for my friend and her daughters, but I pray for her ex-husband as well. I begin by thanking God for not using the yardstick of forgiveness that I too often use to measure others.
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