‘I’d rather die than forgive.’ This was said by Rica (not her real name) who had a fourth degree cancer of the breast which was starting to spread through her body. She had read in the newspapers about a healer who was reputed to have healed all types of terminal diseases like lupus and cancer. She decided to visit Sister Raquel.
She was so confident Sister Raquel could heal her. She had a strong faith, was very religious, went to mass often, and prayed a lot. But after the first visit, nothing happened. She called up Sister and complained that her sickness was becoming worse.
Sister Raquel said that the prerequisite for healing was peace of the soul. And peace of the soul meant forgiveness. Sister Raquel felt that this was the problem. She asked if something was bothering her. She replied quickly that her husband committed the gravest sin against her and she hated him so much.
“You must forgive him if you want to be healed,” Sister Raquel said.
Spontaneously, Rica replied, “I’d rather die than forgive him.”
That was how intense her hatred was for her husband. And so Rica left in tears because she could not forgive her husband. It must have been a heinous crime, that she could not forgive her husband.
After a month, she called up Sister Raquel to tell her the cancer was now spreading to her liver and spine and brain. She wept as she was dying because she could not forgive. But her hatred overpowered her fear of death.
Two months passed. Sister Raquel got a sudden call from Rica. She said that after all these months, she had finally learned to forgive her husband. She said she was ready for healing.
And so Rica went to Sister Raquel who prayed over her. It was like her first communion. When she was healed instantly, silent tears flowed. Suddenly, the cancer was small and contained. In a few months, it was gone totally. Forgiveness heals. Forgiveness heals the soul, then, it also heals the body.
To forgive is so powerful and all encompassing, yet it can be the hardest thing in the world to do.
Gerald Cruz (not his real name) was a rich doctor whose father and two brothers were all gunned down separately in a clan feud with another rich family, the de Guzmans. Their ancestors have been killing each other in the last hundred years. Hatred had reached such a high momentum, that the four-year-old daughter of Gerald, Sarah, knew all about it, who killed whom, or how gory the ambushes were. At age ten, she would rattle off casually both murderers and victims and the tales of horror.
One could not possibly imagine the storm that went on inside Gerald, losing father and brothers in separate ambushes. Terror mixed with hatred – that was what Gerald felt when his youngest brother of ten lay in a pool of blood in their common bedroom.
And so time went by. Sarah was now a lovely lass of eighteen surrounded by men. She was fresh, innocent, a blank paper ready to be written on by the world of men who surrounded her.
Cris de Guzman, a rich vegetable trader, also has deep wounds. His mother had been killed by a Cruz a year ago. The wound was still fresh. The thought of his mother lying face down at the market place, shot in cold blood in public still lingered in his subconscious.
Cris’s son Steve, about the same age as Sarah, witnessed the killing of his mother. He was so shocked he could not cry. He did not speak for three whole months, and just stared at the wall.
Sarah and Steve were good children. One could not see a trace of spirits battered by a century-old culture of vendetta and violence. On the surface, they symbolized youth, overconfident, decadent, intelligent, arrogant, irreverent, experimenting, tasting the feel of brinkmanship. But they were never vindictive nor vengeful. They were half in and half out of the world of family. The other bigger half was school life and then later a professional career.
And so the inevitable happened. Steve and Sarah met in a party and fell in love in the blink of an eye. They did not even know they were ‘arch-enemies’ and they fell in love.
And the other inevitable happened. They accidentally discovered they were ‘arch-enemies’, one Cruz and one de Guzman that were like oil and water, as dictated by their blood lines. Sarah recounted Cris’ uncle killing his father. Cris recounted Sarah’s grandfather killing his mother.
Suddenly, they looked at each other, smiled, shrugged their shoulders, and embraced each other. They condemned in one act of love all the hate of a century building up into their lives, one act of love against a hundred years of vendetta and hatred.
One day, Cris was shot by a rival who was jealous over Sarah. Sarah brought the dying Cris home to ask her father doctor Gerald to save his life. As Gerald looked into the youthful face of the bloodied Cris, he saw nothing but the violence his family had endured. The storm inside instantly raged. He could not possibly ‘save the enemy’, not for a million pesos.
In tears, his lovely Sarah begged on her knees to save her loved one. The hurt of Gerald was two-fold. First was the killing of his family. Second was the enemy had stolen his precious daughter.
Sarah threatened to kill herself if her father refused to treat her dying boy friend. It was a Romeo and Juliet situation. He would not save Steve for a million pesos but he would save him for her beloved daughter. And so, Gerald suffered saving the life of someone he hated for his daughter, a feat not very many people could do.
Steve’s father, Cris, came rushing in to pick up his wounded son. And there it was, Gerald face to face with his arch-enemy Cris. Gerald wanted to pick up a knife and kill him on the spot. As they stared at each other, Gerald and Steve, for a millionth of a second, time froze into eternity. They both saw the violence and the hatred of a hundred years compressed into an atom of time.
Cris smiled and awkwardly thanked Gerald for saving his son. In that awkward forgiveness, in that fleeting smile, a hundred years of hatred vanished. Forgiveness is so powerful because it is the shadow of love. The chain of hatred was broken by a semblance of love, love of a father for her daughter, and forgiveness of a father for someone who saved his son. A hundred-year-old feud of vendetta and violence was stopped in one clean stroke by an act of love. firstname.lastname@example.org / www.sisterraquel.com