It began last Friday in our prayer group. We call it that, but it is just some guys struggling to keep it honest, caring and faithful, without surrendering a sense of humor.
One man described overturning his canoe, with an anchor in one hand and a fishing rod in the other. It was a lesson on the fragility of life, not lost on the rest of us, despite our uncontrolled laughter.
Another followed with a confession. “I find it really hard,” he said, “to forgive some people, especially the unrepentant.”
His case in point was a rude, mean and provocative neighbor. The neighbor was shameless, and no attempt at dialogue, plea or threat made a difference.
After a few suggestions of creative retaliation, we talked about the need for forgiveness, not for the sake of the neighbor, but for our friend’s sanity and spiritual freedom.
Another coffee-clutcher shared a similar experience. The owner of a small business, he admitted that he held animosity against some people who owed him money.
That was a surprise, as we know him to be kind and generous. Turns out, it wasn’t about the money or about everyone who owed him money. It was about people who had taken advantage of him, who never intended to pay.
On Palm Sunday, when the cheers of “Hosanna” turn into the jeers of crucifixion, we read the Passion.
It’s a powerful story of love, betrayal and agony, but the line that stood out was the one found only in Luke: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
More than any miracle, more than accepting the cross, even more than the rolled-away rock and empty tomb, this was the sign of God in Jesus: forgiving His executioners and all those complicit in His death.
On Monday, behind steel bars, I met with another group, and again the talk turned to forgiveness.
One man told of being savagely beaten. He remembered waking up from the surgery that saved his life, and his first thought was of revenge on his three assailants.
Over time, the urge to kill has passed, but the fires of anger still burn, and he finds himself far from forgiving.
With tears in his eyes, he said he knew that to change, he had to let go of that, but the hatred he harbored was tighter than his shackles.
I think he knows more about forgiveness than I do.