by Guest Writer
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’” – Luke 23:34
I’ll admit that I’ve long harbored an idea, albeit subconsciously, that only God could forgive heroically. What I mean is that only an infinite God of infinite magnanimity towards the most treacherous of His creatures could speak words of forgiveness while wasting away on the cross. For the rest of us finite humans, there has to be a limit. It’s the same mentality that St. Peter had when he thought he hit it out of the park with his question of forgiving a brother who sins against him seven times.
In the past 17 months, I think it’s fair to say that every single person on planet Earth has felt that we’ve reached that limit. We’ve been lied to, manipulated and coerced by political and spiritual leaders whose true motives are to make money and exert control. In my state of California, our legislators have used the pandemic (and its accompanying lockdowns) to prioritize the renaming of public schools, looser penalties for pedophiles, taxpayer funded homeless encampments, expansion of abortion, and bans on gas powered lawn equipment. What has any of this to do with ending the pandemic? The answer is that it does not, it never did and it never will.
This sort of stuff is maddening. There is a lot of righteous anger about this and people are fighting back through political and legal means. But in recent days, I’ve come to believe that the most – perhaps only? – effective means of fighting these wrongs is to forgive sincerely and unreservedly – in other words, heroically – those who have wronged us as Christ did on the cross. I know this might sound like lame excuse for earthly pacifism (it’s not), but allow me to explain through a personal experience.
In March, my friend and I were viciously attacked in broad daylight on a busy street in San Francisco while we walked home from Sunday Mass. Three thugs, parked along the sidewalk, jumped us ladies from behind in an effort to grab my purse. They dragged us kicking and screaming up the sidewalk, punched and kicked us several times, and dragged me along the asphalt in their getaway car until I was able to let go. The incident was filmed by half a dozen or more bystanders, none of whom came to our help (but they did post the clips on Instagram).
I was incensed at their brazenness and upset at having lost my belongings. I remember picking myself up from the road and angrily walking back to the sidewalk to grab the sunglasses that had toppled off of my head during the fight, eager to cling onto the one thing they didn’t take from me. Yet, in that moment when I was most enraged, the Lord sought to change how I perceived things. It’s hard to describe this without sounding dramatic, but it’s kind of like seeing a painting in a room with the lights turned on for the first time after staring at it for years in the dark and realizing that the artist had painted a sunny day instead of a dreary night. I realized I should have suffered severe injuries; yet, through the protection of my guardian angel, I was able to walk away with just a black eye and a mildly sprained shoulder. I became acutely aware of the vast love and care of everyone around me for me. And I was allowed to vividly recall the fear in the thugs’ eyes, their desperation to get away from us, and just how young they all were. I sincerely felt sorry for them and my heart was uplifted in joy and gratitude to the good God who loved me so much to show me these things.
The next day, an intrepid reporter from the local ABC News managed to track me down in my apartment. There had been a spate of crimes against Asians in the city and she wanted to know whether I, as an Asian, believed that what had happened to me was an Asian hate crime. I said probably not; they just wanted my stuff. After a few more questions, she asked if I had anything to say to the thugs. By the grace of God, I said I forgive them and that I hope they can get what they need in life without resorting to crime.
Surprisingly, the response to forgive struck a resonant chord far and wide. The story went viral across social media and news outlets, including the New York Post. Shopkeepers recognized me when I went in to run errands. Friends and strangers alike sent prayers, well wishes and flowers. My colleagues raised a bunch of money for me to spend on self-care, which I really didn’t need and ended up donating the entirety of it to a local charity for troubled boys.
This brings me to three closing points. First, if we’re going to engage in a battle with the powers of darkness, we need to know our enemy. The enemy is (of course) Satan. He has disguised himself in modernism, and the particular flavor of modernism dominating us today is Marxism. Marxism thrives on conflict. However, when we forgive, there is no kindling for conflict because the side that forgives will not engage in destruction. It takes the proverbial wind out of Marxism’s sails and stops it dead in the water. We should continue to engage in political and legal battles as is right, but realize that without forgiveness, we’re engaging with the enemy as they do on their terms, which means we’ve already lost.
Second, since modernism is the synthesis of all heresies, it needs to be met with the ultimate level of forgiveness, namely that heroic forgiveness Christ emulated for us on the cross. Seven times doesn’t cut it, nor does strictly seventy times seven for that matter.
Lastly, but most importantly, how can we forgive heroically when it seems impossible to do? On a human level, it’s hard to let go of anger. When we can’t let go, we can’t forgive. I don’t have all of the answers because I too struggle with this weakness, but I think, from the little insight I received from the robbery, that the first step is to rejoice and give thanks to God for everything. When we take the step to tell the Lord we love Him and thank Him for everything, He will take care of the hard parts, for His power is made perfect in our weakness.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thess. 5:18
Postscript. Per request, I’ve included the news piece by ABC News: