Queen's counsel XXX

February 2004

During our module on Salvation last term, we spent some time trying to understand forgiveness. At the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which we celebrate at Candlemas, the old and devout man Simeon stays around to welcome the baby Jesus, saying, in the words of the Authorised Version of the Bible: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" [Luke 2:29-32]. Simeon, before he died, clearly felt the need to proclaim the mission of Jesus - what better time than during the rites of purification after his birth. And note Simeon's vision that salvation is not just personal, but for everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.

This story shares a pattern with the work of Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of the Holocaust, who has spent much of his life identifying Nazi, and more recently other, war criminals and seeking justice rather than vengeance. He recalls the time in a concentration camp when he was summoned to the bedside of a dying member of the SS. The soldier was haunted by the crimes in which he had participated and wanted to confess to and obtain absolution from a Jew; if you had been in Simon's position, what would you have done? People from all walks of life have been asked this; their insightful responses are gathered in his book "The Sunflower".

Faced with the choice between compassion and justice, silence and truth, Wiesenthal said nothing: how could he forgive on behalf of those who were no longer living? The soldier was left facing his conscience but he had at least shared it with Simon and had been listened to by him; Simon, in return, had been given a vocation for life, to uncover the truth in these situations and to have it voiced.

Forgiveness involves being made whole again in the presence of those wronged or their representatives, remembering the past, being sorry and willing to change for the future. It requires openness, a willingness to declare or receive the truth and, whilst not forgetting the past, to learn and move on. This can bring about true healing, as recognised by the centurion a little later in St.Luke's gospel he says to Jesus, on behalf of his servant:

Lord, I am not worthy to have you
come under my roof
but only speak the word
and my servant shall be healed.



This site was developed to contain work by Mike Fox relating to the WMMTC course
This page was last updated on 2003-12-02


E-MAIL: mike@maofox.me.uk
Copyright 2003 Mike Fox / WMMTC
All Rights Reserved