Growing up, I heard a lot of stories about World War II. The most bizarre one I ever heard, however, took place on our own shores.
It involved the man who would one day become my father-in-law. Jake (not his real name), was drafted into the army and sent to fight in Europe. Before he left, he arranged for his salary to be deposited into his brother’s bank account. His brother agreed that when he came back, the cash would be waiting for him. But if he didn’t return, there would be no question where the money was supposed to go, and there wouldn’t be any problems about a will and probate.
When he came back from the war, Jake asked his brother for his money.
And it was gone. His brother had spent every penny.
Maybe the brother was betting that Jake would die in action, so he figured he would get an early start on his inheritance.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if one of my siblings stole just one day’s wages from me, I’d be more than a little miffed.
This guy stole years of salary.
Amazingly, Jake forgave him, even though it meant he came back to the States totally broke.
Wait. It gets worse. You’d think the brother would do whatever he could to make it up to Jake, right? You’d think he’d work out a plan to repay him.
Nope. He never repaid a cent. He didn’t even attempt to repay any of it.
Years later, speaking about this, Jake just shrugged and said, “I guess he really needed the money.”
That’s the kind of man Jake was.
It reminds me of our debt to God. We’re supposed to do penance to make up for our sins. The problem, of course, is that no penance can totally make up to an infinitely good God for even the slightest of our sins. Yet, if we at least do what we can, He’s willing to wipe the slate clean by giving us indulgences.
I shudder to think what would happen if we didn’t at the very least try to do penance.
I was fortunate enough to marry the son of a man who was so Christ-like that he wiped out his brother’s entire debt.
I can always keep before me Jake’s example of love and forgiveness.