How powerful is forgiveness? How far can God’s mercy reach? Are we called to forgive what seems to be unforgivable?

Gary Ridgway was an American serial killer who was known as the Green River Killer. He was convicted of 49 murders but later confessed to nearly double that number. Part of Gary’s trial is shown in this video and the faces and interactions of the victims’ family and Gary is very difficult to watch. Then the father of one of the victim’s, Robert Rule, stands up at the podium, and his simple words counter the animosity in the courtroom.

Robert Rule shows us a true heroic act of love. He stands before his daughter’s murderer and holds his hand instead of slapping it. Robert looks at him and tells him that he is forgiven and the change in Mr. Ridgway’s heart is visible on his face. In a room full of hurting and hatred, this father allows love to have the final say.

It can be incredibly difficult to forgive because it goes against every fiber of our being and every reasonable thought in our mind. I’m sure that Robert was unable to instantly forgive Mr. Ridgway, but instead had to allow God to do it for him. We are called to 

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. Colossians 3:12-13

We should not accept sins against us as just, but rather we are called to die to ourselves and make an act of will to forgive our brothers and sisters.

When Robert addresses Mr. Ridgway he exemplifies the Father’s love and reminds us that God is not scared of us or scandalized by our past. The Catechism beautifully describes the depth of God’s mercy and forgiveness that Robert shows Gary in this video.

There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. 

There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest.’ Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin. CC 982.

Jesus calls us to forgive because he first forgave us. Forgiveness is not a form of currency, but rather a free gift of love that in return, frees us. The peace in Robert’s voice is so beautiful and such a powerful witness to this. He is heartbroken at the loss of his daughter, but under the grief there is a sense of steadfast peace and trust in God that has the ability to free him from an unthinkable tragedy. When we choose forgiveness we “let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body” (Colossians 3:15).

So how powerful is forgiveness? The answer lies on the Cross. How far can God’s mercy reach? The answer lies in His infinite Love. Are we called to forgive what seems to be unforgiveable? The answer lies in the Love we first undeservedly receive from God. I invite you to reflect on Pope Francis’s words,

God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). … Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.Easter Urbi et Orbi message on March 31, 2013.

Here is another great and helpful article on forgiveness.