June 22, 2016
The World-Weary Man
There is a story about a world-weary elderly man after the time of the French Revolution who was reduced to begging. He wandered from town to town, seeking alms to keep himself alive. Upon entering one small town, he made his way to the church, hoping for a handout. He wasn’t a churchgoing man himself, but he stayed there because of the steady stream of passersby.
One day, after watching the beggar on the church steps, a young priest of the parish approached him. He gave the beggar a cloak and invited him to his own house for a meal. The beggar hesitated, saying he was not a religious man, but the priest insisted. For several days afterward, the priest invited him to find shelter in the rectory. Finally, the beggar agreed and spent many days receiving the care and hospitality of his new friend. Eventually, through this priest’s witness, the man decided to come back to the church.
He tearfully confessed to the priest that he felt alienated from God because of the guilt he felt for betraying the family he had worked for as a young man. His employer had entrusted his wife and children to his care during the Revolution, but the man betrayed them. He handed them over to the authorities, and all but the youngest child were sent to the guillotine.
After telling the priest his story, the man lifted his eyes and saw on the wall a portrait of the very family he had betrayed. He asked where the painting came from, and the young priest, with tears in his eyes, said that this was his family. He was the youngest child. Everyone else had been executed during the Revolution. Uttering the words of absolution, the priest added, “And I forgive you as well. Be at peace.”
We may not have to forgive such a grievous wrong, but we are all called to forgive—especially those closest to us, who often hurt us most deeply. Forgiveness like this opens the gates of heaven and allows God’s grace to be poured out on us and on the person we forgive. So let this story inspire you. And let it move you to be merciful as well!
“Lord, help me to become a channel of your mercy in my home!”
The full text of this article by Maurice Blumberg is found at the Catholic Exchange at http://catholicexchange.com/