Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Optional Memorial)
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? (Ezekiel 18:23)
Herbert Kappler was the head of the German security forces in occupied Rome during World War II. In addition to security duties, he oversaw the deportation of thousands of Jews to concentration camps. He was also behind the Ardeatine Massacre, in which 335 Italian men were killed in reprisal for a resistance bombing that killed 30 German soldiers.
After the war, Kappler was sentenced to life in prison. It was not long before he wrote to ask for a visit from his wartime enemy, a Catholic priest named Hugh O’Flaherty. Msgr. O’Flaherty had thwarted Kappler time and again, forging documents, hiding Jews, and aiding Allied troops. Despite the fact that Kappler had put a bounty on his head during the war, O’Flaherty accepted his invitation and visited him regularly. Within just a few short years, Kappler joined the Catholic Church and experienced God’s forgiveness for what he had done.
Msgr. O’Flaherty had every right to reject the invitation to visit his former enemy, a man with blood on his hands and who had caused untold pain in Rome. But look what happened because he chose mercy! He is a living example that God derives no pleasure from the death of the wicked.
We all face the decision to be merciful toward those who have hurt us or wronged someone we know. Our situations probably won’t be as dramatic as Msgr. O’Flaherty’s, but they will still be challenging for us. But think of what God can do when you try to forgive. Think of how people’s lives can change because of your decision to extend mercy—especially when it seems that you have every right to turn away.
Take a minute now to think of someone who needs your forgiveness. Can you give them the chance for a new start? Remember that God doesn’t want anyone to die in sin. Ask him to give you the same grace that he gave Msgr. O’Flaherty. Ask him to help you look an opponent in the face and forgive him. You never know. You might be the instrument that God uses to bring that person to a deeper conversion.
“Jesus, help me to be an instrument of your mercy!”
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