This is not easy for any of us, but it's almost asking the impossible when a grave injustice has taken place. For a victim of abuse to move towards forgiveness of the abuser, it takes heroic virtue, steadfast prayer, and professional counseling-- and perhaps many years of time healing all wounds. For those who have been unjustly treated by their government or a corporation, the uphill legal battle may result in a victory, but satisfaction will not come until forgiveness takes place. For prisoners on death row, forgiveness from their victims' families is not even anticipated, yet nothing else will heal the wounds, not even watching the murderer die.
We like to think the opposite. "If we could just make them pay for what they've done..." we tell ourselves, the blood rushing to our heads.
Hollywood is full of revenge fantasies. We picture the object of our scorn begging for mercy before we summarily dispatch them.
The problem is: an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Anger blinds us. It makes us unable to see the good in a person. Castigating wrongdoers only makes us prideful; afterall, we are all- every one of us- sinners. Who among should ever be the first to cast the stone?
Case in point: Rabbi Lau. Here is a man in dire need of healing. He was wronged, vilely so. But he wants everyone in the world to know how very much he was wronged. He wants everyone to be as angry as he is. He wants to shame those who do not make his injustice the centerpiece of history. You must not only ask his forgiveness, you must beg for it, clothe yourself in sackcloth, douse yourself in ashes, and approach him on your hands and knees and earnestly, tearfully implore his forgiveness-- and even then, you do not deserve it!
Fr. Williams makes this observation, from Zenit news service:
Paradoxically, amidst all the manipulation of Benedict XVI's message and all the complaints that he doesn't side closely enough with any one group, we see the greatness and uniqueness of his presence here. No other leader in the world can speak with the same moral authority or true impartiality. His very refusal to play partisan politics is why his message is so often rejected, and why it is so desperately important.
Meanwhile, one of those raising the biggest stink over the Pope's supposed lack of remorse for the Shoah is Rabbi Ysrael Meir Lau, chairman of the Yad Vashem memorial. He criticized the Pope's speech as being "devoid of any compassion, any regret, any pain over the horrible tragedy of the six million victims." If you happened to see the broadcast, Lau was the fellow off to the Pope's right looking as if he had recently eaten something particularly disagreeable to his stomach.
It turns out that Rabbi Lau is no stranger to criticism of the papacy. He has also been a tireless disparager of Pope Pius XII, even when this means distorting the truth. During the 1998 Berlin commemorations of the 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht -- the Nov. 9, 1938, event that sparked the era of Jewish persecutions in Germany -- Lau, then chief rabbi of Israel, was invited to speak. During his impassioned address he asked the damning question, "Pius XII, where were you? Why were you silent during the Kristallnacht?" The next day two Italian newspapers ran that title, with the subheading, "The Shameful Silence of Pius XII." The only problem with this was that Pius XII was not elected until March 1939, four months after Kristallnacht. Yet I haven't seen Rabbi Lau rushing to express remorse for his defamation of Pope Pius.
Fr. Williams then makes this astute observation: Here in the Holy Land I have spoken with a number of people of diverse backgrounds and experiences, and the one thing they all seem to have in common is suffering. Each one wanted to tell me of the hardships and injustices endured, either personally or historically. Each had a tale of woe to tell. No one seems to recall ever having committed injustice, but all remember having suffered it. And I cannot help but wonder, in a land of so much pain and grief, a land whose peoples pride themselves on "remembering," whether on occasion forgetfulness mightn't be a more needed virtue.
In my family growing up, this was known as 'holding a grudge' -- and it was just as wrong to hold a grudge for a wrong done to you as it was to do wrong. Mom and Dad would punish the person that committed the offense, and then they would correct the person that did not sincerely let bygones be bygones. One steadfast rule in our house was that you were not allowed to hold a grudge. Community, commonality, was more important than your individual grievance.
Rabbi Lau needs therapy, prayers, and he needs to begin the painstaking and liberating task of forgiveness. Seventy times seven times, Jesus said.