There is an old Irish blessing that goes like this, “May God bless those who love us. And those who do not love us, may He turn their hearts. And if He does not turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we may know them by their limping.
In his autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth,” Mahatma Gandhi mentions the “Sermon on the Mount” as one of the main religious works that inspired him to search for ways of bringing about political freedom for India by non-violent resistance to oppression.
He writes: “I came to see that the Sermon on the Mount was the whole of Christianity for one who wanted to live a Christian life. It is that sermon that has endeared Jesus to me.”
In 1947, when British India was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi went on a hunger strike to end the communal violence which had erupted between Hindu and Moslem fanatics in the Indo-Pakistani Border States. During this time, a Hindu fanatic came to him and confessed, “I will surely go to hell and no one can save me.” Gandhi asked the man why he thought he was doomed to hell. The man replied that he was a Hindu, and that Muslims had killed his child during a riot. In revenge, he had slaughtered a Muslim child and his parents, but felt very guilty afterwards.
Gandhi said, “I know one way to save you from going to hell. “Find a Muslim child who has lost his parents, take him home, bring him up and educate him so that he grows up as a Muslim in your Hindu family. Then you won’t go to hell.”
When Mohandas Gandhi was gunned down in 1948, his last gesture was to press his palms together and raise his folded hands to his lips in the Hindu sign of forgiveness. Martin Luther King was a great admirer of Gandhi. When a gang of racial fanatics set fire to King’s house, an Afro-American mob gathered, ready to take revenge. But he told them, “When you live by the rule ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ you end up with a nation of blind and toothless people.” Then he led the gathering in prayer for the white brothers who had burned his house. That is what the “Amazing Grace” of forgiveness, the central theme of today’s readings, is all about. – Father Joseph Dovari