Wednesday, January 6, 2010

God Gave Me The Grace To Forgive Them

Michael McGoldrick, who died in April 2006, made headlines in 1996, when he publicly forgave the killers of his son Michael, who was murdered in a random killing by Loyalist paramilitaries in the aftermath of the ‘Drumcree Standoff’’. Below is his account of what happened and what the Lord did in his life subsequently.

My wife Bridie and I were on our annual holiday in Warrenpoint where we have a caravan. We were enjoying our vacation there when, on Monday July 8th, 1996, I heard the news that a Lurgan taxi driver had been murdered. Bridie and I just stared at each other. Our son Michael had taken a job as a part-time taxi driver in Lurgan, while he was studying for his degree at university. ‘If it had been anyone belonging to us, we would surely have known by now,’ said Bridie.

Later on in the morning came more news about the dead man ‘. . . early thirties, married with one child . . . wife expecting another . . . just graduated from Queen’s University . . .’ said the radio news bulletin. It was Michael. It couldn’t be anyone else - our son, our only child. We were so shocked that we just started screaming and shouting. I ran out of the caravan and, going down on my knees, I hit the ground with my fists.

“I felt we would never laugh or smile again”

I looked up to Heaven and shouted at God: ‘Hanging on the cross was nothing compared to what I am going through!’ I felt we would never laugh or smile again. I loved my son so much, and now he had been taken away from us. The thought that we would not see him again was too much to bear. The next day Bridie and I made the decision to take our own lives, because Michael was everything we had. Bridie suffers from arthritis and had plenty of tablets. But as I went to the kitchen, suddenly a picture of the crucified Christ came into my mind. It hit me that God’s Son, too, had been murdered - for us. I knew that what we planned to do was wrong. It still amazes me how God intervened in such a miraculous way to change our minds. At the wake, and before they put the lid on the coffin I went up to Michael’s body and, putting my two hands on top of his, I said: ‘Goodbye, son, I’ll see you in Heaven”.

As I said this, it was as if a great power went through me – I haven’t a clue what it was – it wasn’t earthly, that’s for sure. It was as if I had been filled with a great sense of joy and confidence in God. I felt as if I could have faced Goliath – I had never felt as strong in my whole life. From that moment my whole life changed I realised how much evil there was in Northern Ireland and I wanted to turn my life into something good and positive.

“Bury your pride with my son”

After the funeral, I saw a film crew filming. There was a lot of activity because of the Drumcree standoff. I knew I had to go over to them. That morning I had written on an envelope a word which had come so calmly and clearly to me: ‘Bury your pride with my son.’ At the bottom I wrote: ‘Forgive them.’ I felt that, despite the agony we were going through, God had given me a message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

I didn’t want the people who had murdered Michael to devastate another family. Bridie and I received the grace and power to forgive Michael’s killers publicly. I knew it was the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the words of Jesus: ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ The words from the Our Father also kept ringing in my ear: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’
I told the TV reporters that I forgave whoever had taken Michael’s life. Every morning I ask God, however, to continue to give me the grace to forgive those who murdered my child. The power and grace I experienced to forgive from the heart was such a freedom and release. I know that resentment and bitterness would have killed me. After my son’s murder, God gave me a clear grasp of the horror of sin, and I remember saying to God,” These hands will never do any evil again”. I realised that in the same way I had offered forgiveness to those who killed my son, God had forgiven me my sin.

Sometimes it is impossible for us to carry alone the burden of grief thrust upon us. We have to give it up and I have discovered that the best person to give it to is God. He completely takes it off your shoulders and points you in a different direction. Since Michael’s death I have been a changed man. Along with Bridie I started a relief ministry to orphanages in Romania. I feel as if Christ has taken hold of my life and I now want to take hold of Christ and give my life to loving God and serving people. Lasting friendships, across denominational barriers, have been built up in the process through this charity work. People have been pulled together in their desire to respond to the desperate need of others.

Michael died in April 2006 while on a mercy trip to an orphanage in Moldavia in Eastern Europe.

Edited testimony that appeared in “Adventures in Reconciliation” by Eugene Boyle & Paddy Monaghan and in the “Power to Change” booklet.

Source: Good News

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