St Peter opened the Gates of Heaven one morning to find an elderly woman waiting there.
“Ah …” he said, “I wasn’t expecting you so early. Normally guests start arriving at about mid-morning. Anyway … what is your name?”
The woman gave her name and the old Saint put on his reading glasses and started typing on his computer. Moments later her details came up on the screen.
“Aha … you’ve had a tough life I see … I’m sorry to read all about it. You overcame many trials and tribulations and suffered many pains and heartaches …”
The woman smiled feebly.
“You were generally very kind too … and you prayed a lot. Often reciting the Rosary on your knees! I bet you have calloused knees …” he laughed.
She blushed a little and said nothing.
He tapped at the keyboard a few times and then added, “generous too … you gave to the poor as much as you could spare …”
She looked down to the ground and said nothing.
“Oh … Oh …” he said with a frown, “what’s this I read here? It is written in red; and underlined too …
“For almost a lifetime you have not forgiven someone … why is that?”
She trembled a little and muttered, “That person hurt me very badly …”
“That’s true,” said the Saint, “it says so here on my computer …”
“And the hurt never went away …” added the old lady trying to justify her actions, “every time I remembered I hurt once again …”
“Yes I know …” interrupted St Peter, “it says so here …”
“And that person never asked for my forgiveness either …” continued the old lady sensing a reprieve.
“The thing is …” interrupted the Saint once again, “you never actually wanted to forgive did you? You held on to the hurt as a crutch which in time became a stick to beat that person with … not literally, but certainly in your mind.
“Every time you remembered the hurt you felt ill-will towards that person. Even though they may not have asked for forgiveness you would not have granted forgiveness if asked. In fact their lack of asking forgiveness itself became an instrument of growth for your crutches and the stick to beat that person with.”
She trembled, fearing the worst, and said nothing.
“Yet … at all times, you recited Our Lord’s own words ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us’ and did not mean a word you said.
“He is very hurt by that!” admonished the Saint as gently as he could, “Our Lord has often been misquoted and this short phrase I fear is the most common misquotation of all.”
At this the old lady began weeping uncontrollably.
“Our Lord, my Master, is very forgiving indeed …” continued St Peter, “I know that from personal experience. Also on the Cross He forgave his oppressors. And a few days later He forgave Thomas too.
“As for the memories … of course He still has them. Every time He looks at the scars on His hands and feet, and on His side, the memories come back to Him as painful and raw as if it were yesterday. And every time He remembers, He forgives once again!”
She wiped her eyes with her veil and continued weeping.
The Saint switched off his computer and shut the Gates behind him as he re-entered Heaven.