When the Amish community in Pennsylvania forgave the man that gunned down their school children it made world news.  When Richard Moore met the former soldier who had blinded him with a rubber bullet as a child and forgave him it made news here.

36 years ago, in 1981, there was an attempt on the life of Pope St. John Paul II. Fortunately, the Pope lived.

After he recovered, he shocked the world when he made a visit to Rome’s Rabbibia Prison on Christmas Day to see the man who had attempted to assassinate him. Millions watched on television. The white-robed Pope and jean-clad terrorist huddled in the dark prison cell for 20 minutes, talking in low voices that could not be heard. When he emerged John Paul explained: "I spoke to a brother whom I have pardoned. The rest was secret. The headline the next week in Time Magazine read: ‘Why forgive?’ That is a good question, one that has been asked for centuries. Last Sunday’s   Gospel readings give the answer. It is this. We must forgive one another always (‘seventy times seven times’), or, ‘without limit’. Rabbinical teaching taught just  three times was enough . Then the old ‘eye for an eye’ law kicked in. There should be no limit to our forgiveness says Jesus and no conditions attached.

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Feelings are neither right nor wrong. If you are offended it is as natural to feel hurt as it is to bleed bright red blood when cut. However the actions when we react against our negative feelings may be evil. Remember that forgiveness is always a DECISION.

Three months after the terrible attack of September 11, 2001, Pope St. John Paul II, in his message for the annual World Day for Peace, taught clearly that there can be no peace without justice, and there can be no justice without forgiveness. By the grace of God we can use forgiveness as a positive, creative force bringing light into a darkened world. That’s a message that has gone largely unheard today in Myanmar, Syria, and between North Korea and the USA. This what Chesterton said about Christianity itself – it hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult and left untried.

Dostoevsky's novel, ‘’Crime and Punishment’ deals with unforgiven sin. It is the tale of a young, poor, Fascist student who murders a rich, old lady so he can get her money. But the student, hounded by guilt and pursued by the memory his sin, finally confesses his crime to the police and is punished. Eloquently, so eloquently, Dostoevsky shows us that sin   a debt  which like all debts  must be paid in full as the creditor comes calling us to account.

The same is true of Shakespeare's play Macbeth. A man is killed so Macbeth can usurp the crown, and Lady Macbeth, tormented by her part in the murderous sin, is driven to insanity. She pitifully raises her hands imagining them still to be stained with blood, and frets, "Will these hands ne'er be clean?" Can  we identify with Dostoevsky’s and Shakespeare's characters? We are all  sinners  just as they were. Some of us owe a lot. Some are sin-indebted a little. But each of us, like the debtors in the Gospel text, must settle accounts with the King, God Almighty himself. The good news is this, in capitals: FORGIVENESS IS FREELY AVAILABLE. ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS ASK.

Letters/Responses

Dear Bishop Ken/Robert

Just a note on behalf of the people of this parish of Holy Family to express our utter revulsion at the satanic attack on your church.  The whole city was shocked.  One wonders what evil minds could do such a sacrilegious act of vandalism.  If there is anything we can do to help please let me know.  You are all in our thoughts and prayers at this sad and difficult time.

Dear Fr O'Kane

Thank you for your email. Bishop Ken has read it but he is away in Dublin this week so he has asked me to reply on his behalf. Bishop Ken is very grateful for your thoughts and prayers at this time. It is a great comfort to the rector and parishioners to receive support from across the community.

Kind regards

Brigid Barrett (Bishop's Secretary)

Dear Paddy,

Thank you for your support and those of the parish.  Your prayers are most needed and appreciated. in Christ, Robert.

Joke

What do you call the karate champion pig? Pork chop!

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