‘I am never the same again.’

Published April 4, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP


Fr. Rolando V. dela Rosa, O.P.

We cannot fully understand the meaning of the resurrection because none of us has died and rose again. But many events in our life can be considered “resurrection experiences.” These are unprecedented, unique, totally gratuitous and above all, so life changing that we can say: “I am never the same again.”

This story illustrates one such experience. When Paolo was in high school, he was frail, sickly, and quite small for his age. The bullies in his class constantly ridiculed and harassed him, but he never told his parents about his ordeals. He just cried his pain away, and quietly bore the daily indignities that he suffered.

Paolo secretly wished he would one day look like the bullies — athletic and sure of themselves. But in his young age, he already knew it was wrong to be like them. He wanted to be respected and loved, not feared.

One day, the bullies assaulted Paolo so bad he had to be hospitalized.  His parents decided to move out to another city to protect him.

After a lot of sacrifice and struggle, Paolo finished high school and took up medicine. He became a surgeon in a well-known hospital and was admired for his medical expertise and excellent bedside manners.

One day, a man was rushed to the emergency room with a bullet in his chest. He had figured in a shootout, and was seriously wounded. When he regained consciousness, the man learned that it was Paolo who operated on him and saved him from death.

When they finally met, Paolo’s first words frightened the man.  “I know you. You were one of those who used to hurt and abuse me. See this scar on my neck? You did this to me. I nearly died because of it. When my parents transferred me to another school, I vowed to come back and take my revenge on all of you.”

Fear for what Paolo might do to him overwhelmed the man. Feeling utterly weak and helpless, he just closed his eyes and waited for the worst to come. But Paolo gently touched the bully’s bandaged wounds and said: “This is my vengeance. This is my protest against all the violence I had suffered. I destroy violence by healing the wounds it inflicts. This is the kind of vengeance that makes us children of a merciful God, who loves us despite our wickedness.”

The bully opened his eyes. He felt an unexplainable sense of freedom, as though someone cut off the chain that had bound him to his despicable past. For the first time, he felt he was healed, not only of his physical wounds, but of his arrogance, pride, and violent tendencies.

What happened to the bully was a resurrection experience.  Having been forgiven by Paolo, the bully was transformed into a new person, vowing never to return to his former way of life. He muttered to himself: “I am never the same again.”

He had experienced the essence of resurrection — forgiveness conquering violence, love defeating hatred, life overcoming death. Centuries of wars and vengeance have conditioned us into thinking that forgiveness is only for cowards and the powerless. In truth, the brave person is not the one who destroys his enemy; he is the one who conquers his desire to retaliate.

When we are unfairly hurt, we can either think of ways to exact vengeance, or bring out from our suffering a redemptive power. Paolo decided to follow the latter course. He saw his personal ordeals as an opportunity to heal and transform the people who had hurt him so they could say: “I am never the same again.”