To Love and To Forgive

St. Michael’s Vicarage
Alnwick

Dear People of Alnwick,

Being human, we all need a little bit of escapism.

Perhaps you play bridge or bowls; you may sing in a choir or be a member of a drama group. For those who prefer more solitary pastimes fishing and bird-watching spring to mind; if you are of a more energetic disposition a run or a regular swim might well feature in your leisure time.

Personally, I love a murder/mystery story! Whether it’s watching a DVD with Joan Hickson magnificently portraying Miss Marple in an Agatha Christie ‘whodunnit’ or reading the rather darker writings of the Swedish author Henning Mankell and the exploits of his detective, Inspector Wallander, I can quite easily step out of the real world and its pressures for an hour or so and immerse myself in the story of a skilled crime writer.

Quite by chance, whilst on holiday in Scotland last month, I bought a book entitled ‘The Last Pope’ by the Portugese writer Luis Miguel Rocha. It centres on the mysterious, sudden and untimely death of Pope John Paul I in September 1978.

It is pure escapism – but a few words attributed to the saintly John Paul I struck me forcefully and have remained with me to the extent that I wanted to share them with you.

When his (fictional?) assassin enters his room the Pope asks: ‘Do you know man’s most important qualities?’ and the assassin suggests ‘Dignity and honour.’

‘Dignity and honour are incidental’ replies John Paul I. ‘The most important qualities must be to love and to forgive.’

To love and to forgive.

Here, surely, we have the absolute kernel of what we should be striving for as individual Christians and as a Christian community.

It is often quite a challenge to love and to forgive – especially when it involves people we find it difficult to be alongside or work with – but it is what we are called to do: sometimes once, sometimes more than once.

As we continue our journey through Lent – hopefully trying in a number of different ways to grow in grace and holiness – perhaps we should all take the opportunity to dwell on those words and see where we may have to make amends or ‘up our game’ as followers of the one who loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die for our sins.

If all of us did, we may not change the whole world – but we could make a significant start on that little bit of it where the good God has placed us at present …

‘Forgive our sins as we forgive’ you taught us, Lord, to pray;
but you alone can grant us grace to live the words we say.

How can your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart
that broods on wrongs, and will not let old bitterness depart?

In blazing light your Cross reveals the truth we dimly knew,
how small the debts men owe to us, how great our debt to you.

Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls, and bid resentment cease;
then, reconciled to God and man, our lives will spread your peace.

(R. E. Herklots 1905—87)

With every blessing,

Paul.

This entry was posted in blog. Bookmark the permalink.