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Mary and Veronica: A True Story of Forgiveness

It's a long story but one day someone shared with me A True Story of Forgiveness, which came from this pamphlet by France Hogan(https://www.franceshogan.com/Assets/books/Forgiveness.pdf) It's been on my mind a lot, so I've decided to share it here on this blog:


Before we bring our discussion to a close I would like to share with you the story of Veronica. It is a true story but the names and circumstances have been changed to protect the participants. It concerns two women who were related to each other, and who, therefore, had all the emotional ties and deep feelings that go with blood relationship and family loyalty. The saga began with Mary's decision to make a significant change in her personal circumstances, a fact absolutely rejected by Veronica, who refused even to discuss the subject. Veronica felt (wrongly) that it was a slight on herself and her family, and ended by rejecting Mary altogether. The situation was complicated by the need for Mary's access to an ageing mother. This simple scenario set the stage for a four-year drama that permanently affected both their lives, and afterwards, gave so much hope to others who took courage from hearing it.

Mary was a committed Christian, and sought refuge in prayer for her hurt feelings. She wanted to obey the Lord, but did not know what to do specifically, in this case. She spoke to God in prayer: "Lord, what am I to do? What can I do? I can't make her think differently. And anyway, I am the one who is hurt, not her!" Back from the Lord came the uncompromising reply: "Forgive her. Forgive her from the heart, not from the lips,and then I can work." So Mary spent some time building herself up in prayer where she found the strength and the courage to let go of her feelings, and accept Veronica's rejection in peace. As soon as Mary was ready the Lord told her to visit her ageing parent. She went, only to find herself left on the doorstep with a tirade of abuse, aware that the eyes of neighbours were watching behind lace curtains. Her humiliation was complete, when access to the parent was denied also. She turned away much more hurt than previously, as this wound sat on the other very recent one. As she put her hand to the garden gate to go away, she heard the Lord say: "Forgive! Forgive from the heart. Don't go past the gate without forgiving. As you open the gate, open your heart to love. . . . "Lord", Mary said, "I can only do it for your sake. I could kill her, I am so angry!" In the silence of the journey home Mary was aware that the Lord was whispering very gently that this response was okay for now, but that in future, He hoped that she could rise to actually loving her neighbour! Mary, of course, did not think that this was a bit fair, and refused to discuss the subject further!

Nevertheless, she sought refuge in prayer again. What else could she do? Where could she go? There was no one but the Lord, and He sounded as if He sympathized with "the other side"! After some time of healing and strengthening, the cycle started again with the usual: "Visit your parent" signal, which Mary knew only spelled more flagellation. And she was right. This went on.... and on ... and on, for four long years. The cycle was rejection, abuse, forgiveness, healing, etc. until it seemed that the treadmill would never end. Was anything happening during this time?

Was it all for nothing? No. So much happened, but so quietly that even Mary did not notice, for she was so concerned with her own responses that she forgot to look for changes on the "other side" until she was nudged to do so by the Lord! It was only then that she noticed the atmosphere had changed quietly. The rejection had continued but the abuse had ceased. She was amazed to notice that her own feelings had changed completely. She was no longer hurt. She did not even pity Veronica. She just prayed for her good, in peace. She was no longer tempted to say to the Lord: "Bless her... but with a brick!" (A fact that she had consoled herself was just "a concrete sign of affection!") She really meant that she wanted blessing and grace for her opponent.

Somehow the situation was completely different now. Mary was free emotionally, and realized that God had done her a great service. He had used this situation to build her a wonderful fortress where the fiery darts of the enemy of souls could not penetrate. She had quietly moved out of Chronos-time where the world dictates, to Kairos-time, God's time, where God works in his vineyard according to His laws, which concern Redemption. Already this was a good fruit to reap from the forgiveness, but God's generosity is infinite, so there was much more to come.

The next stage was a revelation for Mary, one that made her laugh at herself and become more free than ever. She realized with a flash of understanding that she was not God's gift to humanity, and that it was okay for Veronica, or anyone else, not to like her or what she did! This may seem trivial, but it was very liberating. So what, if someone rejects you and does not agree with you! Life does not end there. Life marches on. So what if someone abuses you? That only reflects where THEY are at. It does not necessarily reflect where you are at in anything. Allow others their freedom to respond to life as they wish. Just pray for them, love and serve them as circumstances permit. We don't have to go into negativity for life just because we have had a bit of a to-do with someone.

This emotional freedom of course meant that Veronica lost the power to hurt Mary. It was like taking the sword out of her hand and breaking it. Mary arrived one day to find herself accepted quietly, and access was given to the parent. Of course the poor mother was distraught, thinking she had a permanent rift in the family. Imagine her surprise when Mary turned up in her room, and smiling!

Imagine her amazement when Mary did not need to complain or grumble, but instead knelt in front of the mother and said: "Jesus told us that if two of us agreed, with one mind and heart over something that he would give it to us (Matt. 18.19-20. This text comes just before the teaching on forgiveness!). Will you agree with me to unite your pain for Veronica with mine, and both of us unite our pain with that of Jesus, our crucified and glorious Saviour, and offer this to God for her conversion?" The mother agreed to the deal, and - also to keep silence on the subject. Since she was housebound, Mary assured her that she should not worry if the visits were infrequent. It did not indicate an absence of love. The mother was so relieved that she began to feel better, and move about more.

The final stage came when Mary turned up for another visit only to find a smiling Veronica greet her at the door, invite her in, and offer her coffee! As Veronica prepared the refreshments Mary prayed desperately for help, because she was so used to the problem, that she had no idea what to do with a healing! The coffee was a good distraction as Veronica began her story of the past four years. She told Mary how she had literally willed her to hate, for that would have given Veronica justification for how she had reacted. But when Mary refused to hate, Veronica only hated her even more, and desperately wanted to hurt her. Hence she had controlled the visits to the mother, and added abuse and rejection. When Mary seemed impervious to hurt, Veronica stopped and took a good look at herself and realized how horrible a person she had become, and that it was all her own doing! But now she had repented, confessed her sin to the Lord, and she wanted Mary's forgiveness.... and she asked for it on her knees!

Mary was deeply moved as Veronica told her that she had seen the face and heart of Christ in her, and in her behaviour over the past four years. "You have been a true icon", she said. "You should be called Veronica, not me!" Slowly Mary got the courage to tell her side of the story. If Veronica was moved before, she was speechless now as she learned the cost of forgiveness. All the time she had told herself, "Oh well. Mary is just like that." She did not allow herself to see that Mary was indeed suffering.

Now she had to listen to the terrible struggle not to hate, not give tit-for-tat, either in speech or action. Mary was not the "goody-goody" that she had labelled her, but a friend of Jesus prepared to pay the cost of discipleship. Veronica felt very humbled when Mary confessed: "I thought that I was a good Christian, but that was before I was tested. You showed me just how superficial my commitment to Christ and His way really was. Veronica, I want to thank you for forcing me to become a real disciple of Jesus!". The surprise of this story is that it is about two "baddies", not one, just like the story of the prodigal son. Yet each in her own way, and at her own stage, was open to learn, and God used one diamond to cut another! Since diamond is the hardest substance known, He had to use an immovable thing to get Mary to move on spiritually. As the Book of Proverbs says: Iron is made the finer by iron, a person is refined by contact with his neighbour. The Lord, in His wisdom had used these two people to sandpaper each other into sanctity! And they say that God does not have a sense of humour!

My reader, ask yourself has God given you a Veronica? If so, please do not complain about your privileges. The Lord is interested in your growth, and is providing the opportunity for that. The hardest bit is to recognize Veronica. Once that is done, it is relatively easy to go to the Lord and begin your adventure. Bon Voyage!

Glory to God
Hail Mary!



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