The Magnetic Fragrance of Forgiveness
And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” –Matthew 6:12
If you ever go to the Vatican, and find yourself in St. Peter’s Square, look for a marble table embedded in the ground that is engraved with Pope John Paul II’s coat of arms and the date he was attacked.
May 13, 1981, it was the day that JPII was struck with four bullets: two in the lower intestine, one in his left hand and one in his left arm. The wounds were so bad that he lost nearly three quarters of his blood and had to endure more than five hours of intestinal surgery. The Holy Father survived, but his health was never again the same.
Why would anyone on earth want to assassinate a Pope? We may never know since assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca gave multiple conflicting statements at different times. The strongest theory advocated that the assassination attempt had originated from Moscow because the Pope supported Poland’s Solidarity movement.
That is not important. Our focus is on the fact that then itself, and even after Mehmet Ali was sentenced to life imprisonment, Pope John Paul II regularly asked the congregation to pray “for my brother Ağca, whom I have sincerely forgiven.” Two years later, John Paul made a quiet trip to his assassin in prison, to quietly tell him that he had forgiven him for what he had done. Ağca had not asked for forgiveness, nor did he respond appropriately to the Pope’s gesture. However, thereafter a friendship developed between the Pope and his would-be killer. JPII met the prisoner’s mother in 1987 and his brother some years later.
The story does not end there. In June 2000, Ağca was pardoned by the Italian President following a special request from the Pope. In February, the following year, Ağca wrote to the Holy Father for the first time – still not apologizing – but simply wishing him well. When the Pope died on 2 April, Ağca’s brother, Adrian, gave major interviews conveying their grief and sadness, as they said Pope John Paul II had been a very good friend to them though they did not deserve it; and that their hearts felt laden because he had passed away.
I cannot get over the essence of character and nobility in Pope John Paul II.
So many people have hurt me badly in my life, but none of them put 4 bullets into my intestines and arms. I have forgiven them, but I still grumble about them from time to time. I don’t hate them, and don’t feel spite toward them, but I don’t really like them anymore. I pray the Lord would pour into me the grace so exemplary in the love and mercy JPII displayed. That is true forgiveness, the central theme of Lent because: ‘At the cross of Jesus, pardon is complete. Love and justice mingle, truth and mercy meet.’
What about you? Is there someone you have been helplessly holding on to, with gritting teeth in the inner hidden chamber of Unforgiveness in your heart? Read about Pope John Paul II again, and FORGIVE with every blood cell in your body.
QUICK. Before Lent gets over.
by Ingrid Albuquerque
Ingrid Albuquerque-Solomon is an author, mainstream media writer, and theologian. She currently serves as Content Provider for Haggai Institute International, Consultant for Berean Bay Media House, facilitates weekly Bible studies for The Association For Theological Education through Extension (TAFTEE), and writes Christian devotionals tailored to meet the everyday needs of different Christian organizations