Bound to Forgive
By Steve Goodier
Writer Norman Cousins said that life is an adventure in
forgiveness. I think Fr. Lawrence Martin Jenco would agree.
In 1984, Fr. Jenco traveled to Beirut, dedicated to help the
poorest of the poor. On January 8, 1985, he was kidnapped by
Shiite Muslim extremists and held hostage for 564 days. He
endured imprisonment, beatings, illness and heartbreaking periods
of sorrow and loneliness. Several years after his release, he
wrote a book (BOUND TO FORGIVE, Ave Maria Press, 1995) about his
experiences in captivity and, more importantly, about the power
of love and forgiveness.
Fr. Jenco tells about being taped like a mummy from his ankles to
the top of his head each time he was transported from one place
to another. He described being forced to breathe only from his
nose as his mouth was stuffed with a cloth and taped shut.
He tells of times when his captors said they were going to kill
him and he waited for the bullet to go through his head. Other
times he was dressed up and told he was going home, only to have
his spirits dashed when he was later informed they were teasing.
He remembers being chained hand and foot, donning a plastic bag
on his head, and left in a two-foot by six-foot closet. And he
remembers his stench when he was denied washing for over four
He was later asked what lesson those of us who haven't been in
such a position can learn from his experience and apply to our
daily living. He said, "Just look at the madness that goes on in
the world today. We lug our hates and our bigotry and prejudices
from generation to generation and we pass [them] on.... We [must]
stop and look at each other and say, 'I am so sorry for the hurt
I caused you. I ask your forgiveness.' And then [we must] extend
forgiveness and... receive forgiveness. Somewhere along the line
we are going to have to do that. We're all bound to forgive."
Fr. Jenco has forgiven and can attest to the power of
forgiveness. And though our hurt may not be the same as his, it
is no less real. We, too, are "bound" to forgive. For when we
covenant with life to earnestly forgive whatever hurts come our
way, we see amazing results. We find inner peace and, often,
improved physical health as well. As Dr. O. A. Battista says,
"One of the most lasting pleasures you can experience is the
feeling that comes over you when you genuinely forgive an enemy
-- whether he knows it or not."
I've come to realize that genuine forgiveness is crucial if any
of us will find peace. Whether or not it restores a broken
relationship, it sets our own hearts free. Those who will be
bound by the promise to sincerely forgive, will be freed from the
bonds of the past. Those are Fr. Jenco's words: "We're all bound
to forgive." And those who are bound to forgive are bound to be
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