"Conversion Implies a Freedom to Give"

Cardinal George´s Meditations at Papal Retreat

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VATICAN CITY, MAR. 6, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Is it possible to forgive the murderer of one´s own child?



This was one of the questions addressed this morning by Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, on the second day of spiritual exercises preached to the Pope and the Roman Curia.

The American cardinal gave his answer in two meditations dedicated to the path that leads to conversion, which he called the most profound liberation man can experience.

The cardinal referred to two Gospel examples, Zacchaeus and Mary. The first he pointed to as an example of the freedom that arises from repentance; the second stems from forgiveness of one´s enemies.

Zacchaeus, wealthy leader of the publicans, experienced the forgiveness of his sin and Christ´s call to conversion. He answered generously, saying: "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold" (Luke 19:8).

"Not only is there a change of attitude, but also a willingness to do reparation," Cardinal George said. "Therefore, the process of conversion implies a freedom to give, a new capacity to give oneself generously. This freedom to give oneself, the fruit of conversion of heart, is in clear contrast with the need to be attached to things."

The image of Michelangelo´s Pietà -- the Virgin holding her dead Son after the crucifixion -- gave the cardinal the chance to talk about a 1996 event, when Mario Ramos killed his friend Andrew near Chicago.

The entire parish and its priest prayed intensely so that there would be reconciliation following the young man´s death. Two letters, in fact, were written: one by Mario Ramos from prison, and the other by Andrew´s mother, which sealed the repentance of the former and the forgiveness of the latter.

"Only grace can break the cycle of violence," Cardinal George said, "only something that goes beyond man and his categories; only Christ´s cry who, innocent, forgave those who were killing him."

He continued: "If we perceive things simply with human categories, to proclaim Jesus´ words on love for our enemies would be completely useless and vain. We do not proclaim the wisdom of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which perishes. On the contrary, we proclaim the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God. We keep the living memory of past grace -- ´Father, forgive them´ -- and of a new possibility in the future -- ´Love your enemies.´"

The theme of this year´s retreat is "A Faith for All Peoples: Conversion, Freedom and Communion."