I wonder if you have ever heard of Arthur Flegenheimer. Probably not. Arthur was born in New York City in 1902. By the time he was thirty he was a man of considerable power and wealth. His business was crime...organized crime. Murder and assault were among the principal tools of his trade. He was known to society as Dutch Shultz.
One evening, close to his 33rd birthday, he was in conference with a few close associates when the door flew open and two grim faced strangers sprayed the group with automatic fire.
The next morning, in hospital, conscious but mortally wounded, Dutch kept repeating the words: "This is the journeyís end." Eventually he called for a nurse and asked her to send for a Catholic priest.
When the hospital chaplain arrived at his bedside, Dutch, who had never been baptized, said that he wanted to die a Catholic. After a prolonged and private conversation, he was baptized, received into the Church, made his first and last Communion...was anointed and died. The infamous criminal was subsequently buried with the full rites of the Catholic Church.
When the story broke in the press there was a storm of protest. "If a guy like that can get into heaven," lamented one solid citizen, "then sure as hell there wonít be nobody in hell!"
Many indignant people held that it was disgraceful for the Church to receive and bless such a hoodlum. No doubt they conveniently forgot, for the moment, the crucified Christ and the repentant thief!
The late Pope John Paul the 2nd said that if we believe in the crucified Christ, we have to believe that Godís love is present in the world and that it is infinitely more powerful than any evil.
Remember that Jesus walked the streets and hills of Palestine searching for those to whom he referred as the lost sheep. He dined with sinners and we have no record of his ever having refused to forgive anyone and that includes Judas.
And so we are encouraged to find consolation in Godís merciful forgiveness but he also obliges us to ask ourselves if HE has cause to rejoice in OUR mercy...in OUR forgiveness.
The sincere spouse who was once unfaithful, the teen who has strayed, the customer who is slow in paying, the friend who has betrayed a confidence, the person who failed to be there when needed the most, the nagging, the judgemental, the cantankerous, the selfish, the ungrateful.
Father forgive us as we forgive them? Dangerous ground?
"Father forgive us when we show remorse and the honest desire to win your respect. Be merciful to us and inspire us to do the same for though we are already Christians we want so much to be Christian."