by Fr. Robert DeGrandis
Some atrocities of war are the result of callus decisions. However, some are due to a miscalculation. The primary intention may be to destroy the enemies' capability or will to fight, but in the process many innocent people get hurt, and it is usually all out of proportion to the "wrong" somebody is trying to right! While there is no doubt that hatred and bitterness are by-products of war, this story ends on a positive note and illustrates how powerful forgiveness can be, and how necessary!
Not long ago some Japanese and American soldiers met on an island that they had fought over in World War II. After a brief ceremony, they shook hands and forgave each other. How wonderful! How memorable! Surely they were better off when they left that place than when they arrived.
Several Vietnam veterans have come to me for prayer because of the guilt they have for killing civilians. Some time ago, a World War II veteran was sharing his guilt over his combat experiences. Is there anyone in your background that you have to forgive because of a loved one killed in war, or in some political conflict? Now is the acceptable time to release any anger and hatred.
To extend Christian love is always to say, "I forgive." In the most basic of all prayers, Jesus taught us to say: "Our Father... forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:9 and 12, NAB). But remember, we must also extend this consideration to ourselves; we must forgive ourselves also.
The Lord spoke very clearly when He said, "When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions" (Mark 11:25, NAB). Jesus was exemplary in forgiving everybody during His life. He forgave the Pharisees and the temple priests who "convicted" Him. He even forgave His executioners, praying for them while they blindfolded, mocked, cursed, and struck Him repeatedly in the face and body.
The Lord expects you to forgive just like He did. He is saying that if you don't forgive, you are incapable of receiving forgiveness since you are resisting the Light. Jesus is the Light of the world. Not to forgive is to keep one's self in darkness so that one blocks himself from the forgiveness of the Lord.
In the prayer ministry when people have asked to be prayed with for healing of hurts and pains, we have found that prayer could not relieve their pain until they were willing to forgive others. We have seen cases where pain did not leave people when they were prayed for; but when asked to forgive someone, against whom they held a grudge, the pain disappeared immediately as the person was articulating the forgiveness. We have experienced this so much that we always ask people to say the "Forgiveness Prayer" before receiving prayer for healing.
In my book, Layperson's Manual for the Healing Ministry, I give an account of a woman who would not forgive her husband's girlfriend. The wife was suffering from arthritis that had crippled her and the pain was excruciating. The nun who was praying with the woman finally helped her to see the necessity for forgiveness. The wife prayed, expressing her forgiveness of the other woman. Her pain left and immediately she was able to get out of bed and serve refreshments to the nun and another person who were present. This nun has an advanced degree in counseling and pastoral training and stated that this was a most amazing case.
Many of us have seen the extending of forgiveness bring immediate health to an individual. Is it not motivational to know that if we forgive, we will be healed? Isn't it wonderful that when we pray for the healing of others, or "over" others, that we always receive healing ourselves!
Father Robert DeGrandis, the author of many books on the power of healing, is a member of the Society of St. Joseph, serving the world wide charismatic Catholic community. This article was condensed from "To Love is to Forgive" Copyright 1997 Robert DeGrandis, S.S.J. Used with permission of the author. – From the Archives – San Francisco Charismatics – 1998.