Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

The power of forgiveness

When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his execution. Acts 7,54-8,1a

In the Scriptures, there is not a more illuminating page than this one about the power of forgiveness. New life is born of forgiveness. From the forgiveness of Jesus on the cross, the resurrection was born, which is the core of the whole history of salvation. Stephen’s forgiveness to those who were killing him by stoning and to Saul who was attending and agreed resulted in the Call of Paul of Tarsus, the greatest evangelist in the history of the church. The Lord is not to be defeated by anyone as for generosity, and forgiveness is the greatest act of generosity, the one which pushes mankind the closest to God’s dimension. Paul’s story, his second life, which was all a rush to proclaim the Gospel among attacks and shipwrecks, his apostolic courage, his theological clarity, his frankness, his love for God and men, were conceived the day when Stephen, while dying, uttered the words: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. Paul is not a converted, he is a called one, and he is a called one because he is a forgiven: by Stephen, before he was by the Lord. We do not know what the future of all those who have stoned Stephen would be like, but they must certainly be reborn to a new life because they were all forgiven. A new life is born even in us each time we have the capability to forgive. We do not have the power of God, we do not have any: we were only given the capability to love and forgive, which is the highest top of love. However, starting from this love and our forgiveness, the Lord can change the world, starting with ourselves. One who knows this quite well is that music teacher whom, in the morning, we support with our prayers. He was condemned on the base of totally false charges and, being in prison for the past four, he prays every night for those who accused him with lies, constantly renewing his forgiveness to them. He knows well that only forgiveness can prevent resentment and can bring forth a renewed life for him and his accusers, even from harm and suffering.

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