Starting Point
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Issue Date:  September 2, 2005

Starting Point


There was a man I heard about who said that he could never find it in his heart to forgive those who murdered millions in the Holocaust. He had heard that God is all merciful. He said that if God forgave people for such a heinous act against humanity, he had no interest in such a God. Something in me understands him.

There was a woman I knew who suffered terribly in the concentration camps. She survived and told me that she believed God would forgive those who hurt her. She said that she knew forgiveness to be good, but that it was hard for her. She told me that vengeance poisons the heart and she did not want to become like those who wanted to destroy her. Something in me understands her.

And here I am, one who has never known such suffering in my life and who wonders about how generous the mercy of God is.

I would like the man and woman to meet each other and speak from their hurts, their hopes and their hearts. Would the woman soften the bitterness of the man? Or would the man harden the seeking heart of the woman? In their listening to each other, would God be with them, to show them the light that only God can give?

I hope so. That light is all that we have, as much as we might want to dim it and seek truth in our darkness.

The light of God is love. It is forgiveness. It is hope. It burns in the darkest recesses of history. It burns in the most wounded of hearts. It burned even in those camps. It is testament to the presence of Someone who suffers with us. It burns through us as we reach out to each other in love -- for that reach is who we are, who we long for, who we strive so hard to be.

Blessed are those who love us into being more light than darkness.

Fr. James Stephen Behrens is a monk at Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, September 2, 2005

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