From Bishop Rubin (Izindaba 9):
I met with Fr. Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest known to many of us, at his hotel in Durban last week. During breakfast, I had to help Michael by tearing off the end of the sachet of sugar and emptied it into his cup of rooibos tea. I then had to push the cup closer to him.
You see, Michael has no hands. In April 1990, in Harare, Zimbabwe, he was sent a letter bomb by the South African Government. In the explosion he lost both his hands, an eye, and his eardrums were shattered, among other injuries.
However, Michael has taken the courageous decision to move on with his life. His incredible work with victims of trauma has helped them to dare to hope and to recover their humanity. He has demonstrated with words and , more powerfully, with his physical condition, that to forgive is to be liberated. “Journeys of forgiveness”, Michael said to the Canadian House of Bishops in 2011, “are costly, painful and difficult. At the same time, they often involve grace. Journeys of forgiveness require generosity of spirit, and this, to me, is what is meant by grace”.
Wonderfully, South Africa has given us a whole “cloud of witnesses” to the liberating power of forgiveness. Take for example Desmond Tutu, Albie Sacks (also a victim of a parcel bomb), Steve Biko, Mampela Rampela. Then there’s Nelson Mandela. Just a few weeks ago, we remembered his release from prison, after 22 years, on the 11th February 1990. It is hard to imagine how someone who was kept in isolation on Robben island for 18 years could escape from being imprisioned by resentment, bitterness and hatred! Instead, he took the high road. He embraced his enemies and led his party in negotiations with the South African Government, an initiative which began the miracle of our transformation, without violence, to a new political dispensation.
So often we think of forgiveness in exclusively individualistic, personal and private terms, But Donald W. Shriver, President Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary in New York City (my alma mater) argues that even nations, races, ethnic groups – after long and bitter struggles – can learn to live side by side in peace (An Ethic for Enemies). The solution he posits, lies in our capacity to forgive.
As we begin this Lenten journey, let us come before Jesus in sackcloth and ashes, asking him to forgive us our sins, and, in turn, to help us to forgive the other. Don’t remain imprisioned by resentment and unforgiveness. Let go. Surrend to God. For “Surrend to God is a highly freeing event. It is like opening the lid of a jar and letting the butterfly wing away freely…. It is the freedom of a bound Lazarus coming forth from the tomb.” (“Praying our Goodbyes” by J Rupp)
“Drink this, all of you, this is my blood of the new convenant, which is shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins”.(Second Eucharistic Prayer)