| Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash
Part XI: The Ukraine Crisis
To many Christians, especially those that belong to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and Muslims, it will be nearly impossible to forgive Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cronies for the present carnage in Ukraine. And for the past documented alleged-genocidal Russian military aggression also in (alphabetical order) Afghanistan, Chechnya, Georgia, Syria. Ukraine (again, when Russia annexed Crimea and established puppet states in Easter Ukraine) and other troubled spots worldwide.
Forgiveness was the topic of a Lenten Gospel Reflections (LGR) session in the St. Denis Catholic Church of Diamond Bar (CA) last Wednesday night, March 23rd. At the end of his presentation, this columnist wanted to ask the discussion leader, Rev. Fr. Dennis Mongrain, a question (that became the headline of this instant column). But …
As a student at Benedictine-and-Jesuit colleges of law in Manila (Philippines), this writer learned that persons, especially a lawyer, do not ask questions — like in direct or cross-examination of witnesses — if they do not know already the possible answers. Therefore, I did not ask Fr. Dennis any questions.
At the start of the LGR session, Fr. Dennis read Matthew 18:21-35, the gospel the day before. The gospel reading was The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. It is most interesting to reflect on the 21st and 22nd verses of Chapter 18:
(21) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
(22) Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
During his presentation, Fr. Dennis read from a booklet about the LGR, as annotated by Bishop Robert Barron, who wrote in the said publication about this topic: “… Forgive constantly, relentlessly, and without calculation. Your whole life must become an act of forgiveness.”
Then at the end of his brief discussion, Fr. Dennis read also Pope Francis’ address on the Sacrament of Reconciliation that the pontiff delivered in March 2021:
“When I go to confession, it is in order to be healed, to heal my soul.
To leave with greater spiritual health. To pass from misery to mercy.
The center of confession is not the sins we declare but the divine love we receive, of which we are always in need.
The center of confession is Jesus, who waits for us, listens to us, and forgives us.
Remember this: In the heart of God, we come before our mistakes.
And let us pray that we may experience the sacrament of reconciliation with renewed depth, to taste the forgiveness and infinite mercy of God. And let us pray that God may give his Church merciful priests and not torturers.”
” … forgiveness implies repentance and restitution. Penitents are mocking forgiveness without making restitution by merely being sorry for the sins they have committed against God and the people. To do so would mean false piety and would go against the very meaning of Easter Sunday.””
The question now, especially in this Lent: Can the people of Ukraine, their Orthodox, and other spiritual leaders forgive Mr. Putin, his cronies, and generals for the anguish, deaths, injuries, and pains they inflected on their Ukrainian neighbors? That is, if the Russians will ask for forgiveness? Remember what I cited in the last episode of this column on why Easter Is About Forgiveness?
This columnist would like to stress the last paragraph of the said article: “Perhaps today, which is already Easter Sunday in the Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her family, her Cabinet officials, and congressional and local-government allies may begin the healing process. Perhaps, following Rev. Fr. Ilagan’s homily, they might start to forgive first themselves for all the alleged wrongdoings they have done for their constituents so that the Filipino people can also forgive them.
Perhaps the Filipino people ought to forgive themselves for tolerating corruption in the first place. But then, as I have been saying, forgiveness implies repentance and restitution. Penitents are mocking forgiveness without making restitution by merely being sorry for the sins they have committed against God and the people. To do so would mean false piety and would go against the very meaning of Easter Sunday.”
“If people can pressure all the world’s past and present despotic and corrupt leaders to give back what they stole, the WR3P fund may dwarf the billions of dollars spent by the United States in its ‘Marshall Plan’ for Europe after World War II. Yes, the “Marshall Plan” funding may be like pennies compared to what the despots and their families have looted.“
Perhaps the Vatican, Other Religions, and the United Nations (or VORUN) may team up and propose a reconciliation process between Russia and Ukraine. And how forgiveness, repentance, and restitution can be obtained and dispensed. After all, Mr. Putin and his cronies have allegedly in their possession and control assets worth more than 20-trillion (spelled with a “T”) in American-greenback equivalent. Therefore, the mediators may create a “trust fund” from the assets turned over by Mr. Putin et al. that can pay for the reconstruction of buildings, houses, and other edifices destroyed by Russian missiles, bombers, field-artillery units, and other means of creating damages in Ukraine.
Perhaps the VORUN Secretariat may invite the families of heads of states of other nations that allegedly looted the national treasury of their respective countries to contribute to a World Rebuilding, Reconstruction, and Renaissance Plan (WR3P). Among them are the Marcoses of the Philippines, the Amin of Uganda, and other controlling families of nations, the treasuries allegedly looted by them. If people can pressure all the world’s past and present despotic and corrupt leaders to give back what they stole, the WR3P fund may dwarf the billions of dollars spent by the United States in its “Marshall Plan” for Europe after World War II. Yes, the “Marshall Plan” funding may be like pennies compared to what the despots and their families have looted.
But then, will miracles cease to happen?