“If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).
The division created with good and evil has been a reality since the fall of Adam and Eve. In a civilized society people coexist with their differences through the process of respectful dialogue. Civility and lives are destroyed when hatred breaks down the opportunity for conversation. Jesus provided a path to peace and unity with His Death and Resurrection.
I watched a documentary titled “Forgiveness: The Secret of Peace,” which aired on EWTN. This beautiful film is about the ministry of a Catholic priest who lives in the Central part of Africa. Father Ubald Rugirangoga was the pastor of a parish in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. The assassination of Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana set off an ethnic tension that engendered the killing of over a million people in 100 days. The Hutu and Tutsi people living as neighbors turned into brutal enemies, and some of the bloodiest events of the 20th century took place. The tension leading to this atrocity had been building for decades.
Father Ubald was seven years old when his own father was killed in their Tutsi village in 1963. In 1973, he entered seminary where he witnessed ethnic violence between the Hutu and Tutsi men in seminary. He was ordained in 1984 and assigned to a parish in the Diocese of Cyangugu in Rwanda, where he was living when the genocide broke out. By order of his bishop, he fled to France for safety. The killing he observed in his village caused him to question his ability to remain a priest capable of promoting peace. Standing before the Stations of the Cross at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes he had a profound conversion. “The genocide against people of Tutsi ethnicity was, for me, a cross to carry,” he wrote. “Without accepting it as a cross to carry, nobody can forgive.”
Father Ubald returned in 1995, and continues to help Rwandans heal and forgive. In 2010, he purchased 27 acres and built the Center of Peace, where he offers retreats, healing Masses and housing for retired priests. Father Ubald’s message of mercy and wisdom is a lesson for us all. He said, “We must take responsibility for our history, the good and the bad, for the sake of generations after us.”
The message of peace accepted in a wounded community by the guidance of Father Ubald is precisely what God the Father asks of us – to forgive others as He forgives us. A secret place of peace may refer to a location or the state of our soul in its relationship with God. Reconciliation is a process of restoring relationships where trust is destroyed. One person can forgive, but it takes two to reconcile. It may be a long process, but with God everything is possible.
Our society disrespects God’s plan for life and marriage. The eroding principle of reason and disregard for moral truths creates doubt in our ability to know truth about anything.
Father Paul Scalia, a priest in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, spoke on moral relativism in a homily: “It falls now to the ‘body of the Church,’ for those assembled here, and in the vast reach of this communion, to stand in the place of Jesus in taking on the mission. The body of the Church must bear witness to the truth.” Dying on the cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive the people because they did not know what they were doing. Today, we have no excuse for being left in darkness because we have the Light of Christ, and we know truth. Share the hope we have in Jesus! Pick up your cross and be a missionary of mercy! Amen!