"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." - Ephesians 4:32
On this day in 1983 Pope John Paul II visited Mehmet Ali Ağca in prison, the man who tried to kill him two years earlier.
As the Pope was entering St. Peter's Square to address an audience his assassin fired at him with an automatic pistol, striking his abdomen and perforating his colon and small intestine in several places. Ağca was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Two days after Christmas two years later the Pope went to the prison where Ağca was being held to speak with him privately.
They spoke for twenty minutes. When asked what they spoke about John Paul II said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust."
Where does one look for the power to carry out this extraordinary and difficult thing called forgiveness? For me it has always been at the cross of Jesus. At the foot of the cross I recognize myself as one who not only needs to forgive but to be forgiven.At the foot of the cross I can acknowledge that even the very best of us bears some resemblance to the worst of us.
Loving God, let us know the power of your forgiveness, that we may forgive others as you have forgiven us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.