As we enter the season of the Triduum we draw our attention to the suffering of our Lord and his ultimate forgiveness towards those who caused him so much pain and agony. It’s hard to fathom what he went through. In our lives we tend to escalate the trivial inconveniences we experience into major crises. In the end do we truly know what suffering is? I recently finished reading Forgiveness Makes You Free: A Dramatic Story of Healing and Reconciliation from the Heart of Rwanda from the Heart of Rwanda by Father Ubald Rugirangoga. Buckle up because you’re about to learn what true suffering is all about.
For those unfamiliar with Father Ubald he is a priest from the African country of Rwanda. He is a survivor of that countries darkest moment, the Rwandan genocide. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered some 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. Father Ubald, his family, and his parish were in that minority. Father escaped narrowly but more than eighty family members and 45,000 parishioners were not so lucky.
Perhaps the greatest loss for Father Ubald was the murder of his mother. It is hard for us to imagine the pain and anguish this caused. Reading Father’s account of the genocide is not easy however I encourage you to read through those painful pages because it’s what follows that is truly breathtaking.
“‘Jesus, where are you?’ I prayed every night as I wept . . . I felt I had failed as a priest, for I had preached love and the people made genocide. . . .Then I heard God speak to me. Jesus wanted me to use these experiences to evangelize later. It was then that I knew my life would be spared. God would make a way.”
Make a way he did. Father Ubald eventually met the man that ordered the murder of his mother and others……and Father Ubald forgave him that day. “God, help me. Help me to show mercy. I prayed as I approached the man where he stood and faced him. And then I felt my arms reaching out to hug him, and out of my own mouth came a miracle: ‘In the name of Jesus, I forgive you’.”
That one moment of mercy that Father Ubald felt moved to extend to the one responsible for his mother’s death has become a tidal wave of mercy throughout Rwanda. Father now preaches the message of mercy and forgiveness as he takes on a new mission, to help his home country heal from devastation that reaches across generations. The message is certainly not an easy one to put into action but it’s one that once planted blossoms and grows.
In Forgiveness Makes You Free, Father Ubald shares this message of love with each of us. As he retells the story of the Rwandan genocide, it’s impact on his own family, and the recovery that goes on still today, he includes a series of reflections that we can then apply to our own lives. We may not experience the same suffering Father did but we do indeed have mountains we must climb and obstacles we must traverse in our own lives. From the moment you pick up this book and see the broad smile on Father Ubald’s face that consumes most of the cover, you know you are in for something special. Let Father Ubald show you how to make mercy and forgives an integral part of your life……and experience true freedom like no other.