Ralph Waldo Emerson calls the stars in the night sky “envoys of beauty, lighting the universe with their astonishing smile” and submits that if they appeared for a single night only every thousand years, we’d be on our knees in worship and would cherish the memory for the rest of our lives. But since they come out every night, the miracle goes mostly unnoticed. We watch television instead.
But, their beauty notwithstanding, shining stars are not the most prominent miracle that goes unnoticed. The greatest miracles have to do with gratuity, with love, with unfreezing a soul, with forgiveness. Our great poverty is that these go mostly unnoticed. There are much more astonishing things than the stars for which to be down on our knees in gratitude and there are more profound things to cherish in memory than a starlit night.
The Belgian spirituality writer Benoit Standaert suggests that the greatest miracle is “that the freely given exists, that there is love that makes whole and that embraces what has been lost, that chooses what had been rejected, that forgives what has been found guilty beyond appeal, that unites what had seemingly been torn apart forever”.
The greatest miracle is that there’s redemption for all that’s wrong with us. There’s redemption from all we’ve failed to live up to because of our inadequacies. There’s redemption from our wounds, from all that has left us physically, emotionally and spiritually limping and cold. There’s redemption from injustice, from the unfairness we suffer ourselves and from the hurt which we inflict knowingly or unknowingly on others. There’s redemption from our mistakes, our moral failures, our infidelities, our sins. There’s redemption from relationships gone sour, from marriages, families and friendships that have been torn apart by misunderstanding, hatred, selfishness and violence. There’s redemption from suicide and murder.
Nothing falls outside the scope of God’s power to forgive, to resurrect and make new, fresh, innocent and joyful again.
Our lives, to a greater or lesser extent, all end up incomplete, broken, unfairly ripped away from us and causing hurt to others because of our weaknesses, infidelities, sin and malice; and still, ultimately, it can all wash clean again. There’s redemption, new life after all the ways we’ve gone wrong in this world. And that redemption comes through forgiveness.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection