One morning as I was driving to work, I heard a little voice coming through the radio of a young lady giving her testimony of forgiveness. It was so incredible, so much so, that I said, I have to bring her to Buffalo for Da Bounce. The young people need to hear her testimony. It is just too incredible. She will be able to touch so many young people and help them have a relationship with Jesus. I began repeating her name until I got to my office and typed it into my computer. I was able to locate her, Rosario Rodriguez from Los Angeles.
Every year the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, along with the Office of Cultural Diversity and city parishes, plan Da Bounce, an urban Catholic youth rally to which we bring a speaker and have workshops on themes that relate to youth.
Rosario Rodriguez was our main speaker for the event. She spoke on her experiences which, when hearing, you just wonder. How can you talk about it so easily, calmly and almost jokingly at times. The youth could not take their eyes off her as she told her life story. She was a victim twice, first by a rapist and serial killer, than by a girl who shot her in the chest to join a gang.
Rosario went through a lot after her first incident of almost being raped and miraculously surviving the attack. She tells of being depressed and almost suicidal. Having a strong spiritual and supportive family, her prayer life and speaking with a priest who asks her to forgive and to pray for her assailant and seek professional help, is what brought her through it all. This helped her to become free from all that weighed her down. She found the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit in her heart to forgive him.
Five years after the shooting, she was asked if she could forgive her shooter. It was easy for her because she knew that it was just so much easier to forgive. She said she did not have the energy not to. Rosario says she prays for her attackers every day.
We think about the price that Jesus paid on the cross so that we are no longer enslaved to sin. As we come to the end of the liturgical year and we begin the new year of the Church with the season of Advent, a season of hope, let us begin by challenging ourselves to forgive someone or something that is weighing us down, some barrier to growing spiritually or that is not letting us move on in our faith life. What is not letting us get closer in our relationship to Jesus?
Once I was challenged to forgive someone. I was terribly hurt by him. It took over two years to forgive. The longer it took, the more it bothered me. When I went to church and the Gospel would be about forgiveness, something within me would just not be right. It was as if my inner being was aching. It was not until I forgave him that I was at rest. That was when I finally felt at peace when I went to church.
What a beautiful gift the Lord has given us in, with and through forgiving us. What a gift we have in the sacrament of reconciliation and in being able to forgive one another.
Advent Retreat: Nov. 29 at Holy Angels Church