"For the Vatican, I may still be the man who tried to assassinate the Polish Pope, but now I have changed, I am a different man." These are the words of Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who attempted to shoot and kill Pope John Paul II in 1981. Agca recently announced that he is going to become a Roman Catholic, a decision he made on the 26th anniversary of his assassination attempt. Read the Catholic News article here. This happened while I was in grade school, and I still carry that image of JPII in that prison cell with Agca: holding his hand, embracing him, praying with him and forgiving him for trying to murder him. It was a powerful lesson in the power of forgiveness.
Just the other night, a group of friends and I were gathered, and as we discussed how we witness Resurrection in our lives, one of us made the following statement: "do you ever notice how when you forgive a person, you love them even more than you did before?" True love has the power to heal, to transform, even to raise a person from the dead. In Scripture we see story after story of Jesus healing, transforming, and raising from the dead, all prompted by this single statement: "your sins are forgiven you." Look at the effect forgiveness had in this man's life.
I'm reminded of the story of St. Maria Goretti, who at 12-years-old was attacked and then stabbed to death by an 18-year-old neighbor. She forgave him on her deathbed, but it was a dream of Maria gathering flowers for him while he served a 30-year sentence for her murder that changed him. When he was released, he begged her mother's forgiveness and became a Capuchin.
Is this what we're experiencing in the heart of Mehmet Ali Agca? Time will tell if Agca is a changed man. Know what? Everything in my heart wants to believe him, because I believe in the power of forgiveness.
On this First Friday of May, let us all pray:
Lord Jesus, forgiver of all sins, we praise you and we thank you for giving us the example of John Paul II, who loved you so much, and took to heart Your command to love our enemies and pray for them. Today we take Your command to heart as well, and forgive Mehmet Ali Agca, and all who attack the Catholic faith in any way. As we forgive him, and pray that he continue to seek You in his life, we praise and thank you for Your incomprehensible love. AMEN.