That Great Lenten Sage – The Dali Lama

"Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, "I am not of value," is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought – so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, Then you can do anything. It is usually said that you are your own master."

Each day I turn a new page on my Dali Lama calendar and feel a little more organized for doing so. Each day is a gem and some days are better than others. Today is one of those days. I like this reminder today because it encourages us to do whatever we put our minds to. In my prayer this morning I used this thought and added the line, "we all have the power of prayer," afte the line "we all have the power of thought." There are times when the task ahead seems more than manageable and there are days when we feel less than equipped to complete that task. Yet if we summon that which God has already put in us, and if we rely on God in prayer, we may be surprised exactly what we might accomplish.

On Shrove Tuesday I began reading a book called Led By Faith. It is Immaculée Ilibagiza’s account of how her faith helped her through the Rwanda’s genocide. She spent 90 days in a Pastor’s small bathroom, hidden with 6 other women. She emerged to find all of her family, apart from a brother who was out of the country, massacred. Her account of how she prayed daily in that cramped space is very moving. She recalls praying the Lord ‘s Prayer over and over again but not getting past the words, "forgive those who trespass against us.” Her mouth would get dry and she says that she "…couldn’t say the words because she didn’t truly embrace the feeling behind them." But she continued to pray for strength to forgive and by God’s grace she achieved that seemingly impossible goal. "After weeks of continual prayer, God came to me one night and touched my heart," she said. "He made me understand that we are all His children and therefore all deserving of forgiveness. Even those who had done things as wicked and depraved as the killers who were ripping Rwanda apart deserved forgiveness. Like naughty children, they needed to be punished…but they also needed to be forgiven"

Now I must confess that I read that sentence many times before I could come to grips with how powerful that statement is. We talk [a lot] about forgiveness, especially in Lent. But how much do we mean it and how much do we live it. Immaculée Ilibagiza is living proof of what the Dali Lama has suggested above. She not only lived to come out of a terribly violent holocaust, she stared down the sins of her oppressors and mustered the spiritual courage to forgive friends and neighbours who had literally hacked her family to death. She went to the prison where her parent’s killer Felicien was kept. He was known to her as a business man and local politician whom she had much respect for. She writes that "Standing in that prison, I knew that Felicien and I, both killer and survivor, were on the same path. We both needed the healing power of God’s forgiveness to move forward if our country was to survive and rise from the bitterness, blood and suffering of the holocaust. With all of my heart, I forgave Felicien. And I believe that, in his heart, he accepted my forgiveness."

I think that Immaculée’s witness is a powerful one indeed. I may be a lifetime developing that strength faith. Her testimony is a strong witness for Lent and I look forward to journeying through this season with Immaculée Ilibagiza by my side.

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