Three brief reflections on forgiveness and reconciliation
Prior of Bose
as requested by the Ara pacis Initiative
1. Jesus was not an idealist dreamer when he asked forgiveness of enemies, and for love, prayer and blessing for persecutors (see Mt 5,43-44; Lk 6,27-28); he did so well aware that only if a person proves capable of forgiveness can he be capable of true, unflinching, loyal and reliable love. The only really efficient way to transform an enemy into a friend is actually forgiving and loving him unconditionally, that is answering evil with good, as evil is not defeated by evil, but only by good (see Rm 12,21). Forgiving the other before he repents, forgiving him without expecting anything in exchange is a nearly impossible operation for us humans: and yet this is what Jesus has lived to the extreme, going as far as forgiving his crucifiers (see Lk 23,34), and with this authority he was able to ask all those who follow him to do the same. Forgiveness is not a failure, it is not a defeat, but rather a great victory over oneself, it is a journey of humanization of oneself and the enemy. Forgiveness is not "letting it go" by someone who is unconscious of the wrong done, nor is it the wise calculation of a just philanthropist: it is a conscious and responsible choice which states that love is stronger than hate so as to break the chain of animosity and vengeance. This is the teaching of Jesus, after which – and this must be clearly stated – even God's justice, the justice described in the Old Testament, takes on new meaning. In the new Christian economy, forgiveness and reconciliation in fact can never be in contradiction with justice, nor can they be considered a reduction of it, but rather they are inherent, imminent: there is no justice without forgiveness!
2. I remember the prophetic teaching left us by John Paul II in his Message for the XXXV World Peace Day, a text significantly titled: "There is no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness". On that occasion the Pope wrote: "The belief to which I have come by reasoning and considering the Biblical Revelation, is that it is not possible to fully re-establish the broken order without reconciling justice and forgiveness. The pillars of true peace are justice and that particular form of love which is forgiveness" (§ 2). A difficult discourse indeed, especially seen from the side of the victims; yet, if we truly want to proceed toward a sustainable peace, we cannot think of justice as something antithetical to forgiveness: it is the Gospel that necessitates the principle of "forgiveness" as imminent in the principle "justice", and we as Christians cannot avoid living and announce it...
3. John Paul II even went so far as to state that "only insofar as we can affirm an ethic and a culture of forgiveness, can we also hope for 'political forgiveness' as expressed through social behaviour and juridical institutions, whereby justice itself may take on a more human face" (ibid. § 8). Thus a future society characterized by peace, quality of life and solidarity – a true communitas - cannot be planned without the inclusion of forgiveness in the concept and practice of justice: forgiveness is necessary at the social and the political level, in relationships between nations, ethnicities, groups... A practice of forgiveness implies in the short-term an apparent loss, maybe also defeat, but in reality it ensures long-term gain. Violence is the exact opposite: it opts for an immediate gain, while in the long run it prepares for real and permanent loss on the ground. Granting and accepting forgiveness has always been the deed of few individuals, but today it can become "political" practice of Christians and, along with them, of all those who seek paths of reason and wish for peace for all humanity.
|< Prev||Next >|