“Saul, my brother . . .”

Most of us are familiar with the story in scripture.   How Saul is blinded by an encounter with Christ, how he is sent to Ananias, and how this onetime persecutor is baptized.   It’s a moving story of conversion.   But let’s look at another story within Paul’s story: Ananias’ own “conversion” from seeing Paul as an enemy to seeing him as his brother.

Ananias’ willingness to forgive did more than just heal his relationship with Paul.   It also opened Paul to the power of divine mercy.   Hearing the word “brother” was key to forming Paul as a believer: if he, a feared persecutor, could become a brother, anyone could—even the Gentiles.   It was experiences like this that convinced Paul that nothing can separate people “from the love of Christ” and that Jesus can break down every “dividing wall of enmity”.

Here are some other examples of how forgiveness can change hearts:

• St. Maria Gorretti forgave Alessandro Serenelli, the man who murdered her.   That act of mercy stayed with him and prompted his conversion in prison.   Upon his release, he spent the rest of his life as a Capuchin brother happily serving at a Catholic school.

• Pope St. John Paul II forgave Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who shot him in St. Peter’s Square.   When he was released, Ağca brought two-dozen white roses to John Paul II’s tomb.

• Immaculée Ilibagiza forgave the people who murdered her family during the Rwandan genocide.   Her powerful story has touched the lives thousands of people around the world and has led many to forgive those who have deeply hurt them.

Every time we show mercy to our spouse or child, our Father sees it.   Every time we reconcile with an old friend, God rejoices.   Every time we choose mercy instead of vengeance, the angels celebrate.   What a message of hope!   In a world riven by hatred, division, and enmity, we can make a world of difference.   Just as Ananias did.

word among us