First Word 2020

"Forgive them, Father, they don't know what they are doing."

By Marites Rano Redoña

(Marites is an Assistant Professor at the University of Santo Tomas where she teaches Theology courses to undergraduate students.  Her research interests focus on marriage and family with specific emphasis on the Theology of inclusivity in the light of Amoris Laetitia [Joy of love] as the pastoral approach to families in irregular situations.)

I love fairy tales because its charming stories always end with happily-ever-after.  I grew up in a loving family of 7, deeply devoted to Mary Help of Christians.  Since childhood, my time revolved around parish activities and its many liturgical services.  After graduation from college, I joined the religious community of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians or the Salesian Sisters (FMA).  What happily-ever-after could there be than to be the bride of Christ.   Or so I thought.   I acquired an illness that forced to leave the convent.  My poor health would only burden the community I wanted to serve.  It was, I imagined, the last painful goodbye I will ever do in my life.  Period.

Where now I go? Each day, each night I ask.  Then an answer from Psalm 46:10.  Be still, and know that I am God.  “Wait,” say, “a plan … a good plan … for you I have.”  He wants me!  He loves me still!  So off to a University I go where in Theology near my Beloved still I will be. From a student to a college Theology professor how quickly the years pass in bliss.  And on the seventh year, dressed in white, I walk down the aisle to exchange I do with the prince I believe is my happy, happy ending.  Wrong again…

2010.  My beautiful dream becomes a nightmare shortly after our second child was born.  My husband’s late hours at the computer, sweet, short messages to the office and unexplained mood swings at home alarms me.  His inbox remains suspiciously empty.  ‘People change,’ in my face he tells me.  He rarely speaks except to say “Nothing”. He slams the door to avoid a conversation.  Or throw things to keep me at a distance. And in the few times he talks, he screams like a devil.   Then, one night, at the extra room he sleeps.  A stranger he has become – aloof, uptight, and angry.  His silence cuts deep; his outbursts frighten me.    Unbearable as things are in the bedroom, hell, more so, outside our home.  His behavior in public are nails on my cross.   Each day to work an hour-long silence in the car; at night, I am stranded, waiting five hours,  for the ride home that never comes.  His cell phone is dead.  Another deadly silence creeps.  S-l-o-w-l-y the lights in the mall dims; s-l-o-w-l-y the commuters leave.  Alone in the street I stand, holding my tears to keep what little pride I have. Nothing but cold pity in my heart.   A Gethsemane-moment.

Worse gets WORST.   On a Good Friday of 2014, my fairy-tale finally ends. He packs a bag, kisses his daughter and son, drives away and never returns. Never, ever.   Only the roar of the engine bids me farewell.   Alone. Betrayed. Abandoned.  Worthless. A Calvary-moment.  

Where now I go?  Again my Lord tells me, “Be still, and know that I am God.  A plan … a good plan … for you I have.”   Back to the University I go to teach despite rock-bottom health of mind and body.  House amortization and tuition to pay; food, books, clothes and many more to buy for two children I care.  Work and study keep me sane.  Beneath His cross each day, each night I stand.  Before Him I ask, “Why me?”   I play the blame-game very well.  Some days I am humbled.  Many days, defiant. My mind explodes in anger. I want justice. My heart drowns in sorrow.  My children need a father!  But my soul (bless her!) cries to the Unseen I cannot touch. Where are You?    A roller coaster ride of joy and sorrow.  Like the morning tides, my faith rolls and ebbs.  A cross I cannot carry. It’s beyond me!  Finally, His words I hear, “Father, forgive her anger, forgive her fears”. 

S-l-o-w-l-y, hope and love for Him who died for me return. Like trees that bend with the wind, my faith bows to His will.  Forgive your husband.  I hanged on the cross for the evil men do.  I loved and died for all; your husband too.  “Guilt,” Pope Benedict says, “can only be overcome by forgiveness.” 

So I let go of my dream – my life without a husband, my kids without a father.  By the measure I forgive, so will I be forgiven. I can lose everything but Him who loved me first. Then a downpour of grace - sweet, gratuitous - after my surrender. Deep my loss then; but richer I am now with a spiritual family of friends united to Christ. They are, to me, God’s signs of mercy and love.

Fast Forward. Six Good Fridays since my husband dumped me, new doors (and windows) of opportunities come my way.  A stable job, a PhD title to my name, a fun-circle of family and friends, and two healthy, happy children all my own.  Who but a few enjoy a vocation of three – religious, marriage and now a single mom?  

Jesus’ passion I had shared; His glory now my prize.  A RESURRECTION moment.  


God of Mercy and Compassion
We praise and thank You 
Send us Your Holy Spirit 
that we may see the true meaning of forgiveness by Your death on the CROSS.
Open our minds and hearts
that we may see things, 
not through our eyes, 
but with the eyes of faith always united to Christ
For only through Your eyes will we see matters that truly MATTER.