After the car accident, it became clear that Joey was brain dead. Joey’s father asked to have his life support systems removed. The driver, Joey’s friend, Brendan, was treated for minor injuries and released.
Later at his trial Brendan was cited for three criminal infractions in connection with the accident, including vehicular homicide, and driving while drunk. He pleaded guilty on all counts.
Before Brendan’s sentencing, Joey’s father came forward to speak to the jury. He said: “ Joey was the pride of our family. He was a bright, good-natured son with enormous potential to do many great things with his life. We loved having him with us. His smile and sense of humor brought our family immense joy. His loss has left us shattered. Without Joey around, we have a huge hole right in the middle of our lives, which can never be filled or paved over.
Today Brendan, the driver, Joey’s best friend and co-worker stands before you awaiting sentencing. He admitted his guilt. We know this terrible accident happened through thoughtlessness. Brendan didn’t start out on that unfortunate night with the thought of hurting anyone, least of all his buddy, Joey. Yet, Joey is gone, our family agonizes, and Brendan, himself has and continues to suffer everyday for his bad choices. And worst of all, Brendan may carry the weight of what he did for the rest of his life
This ever-present burden is greater that any punishment this court can give him. For this reason, I respectfully ask the court to hear the appeal of Brendan’s parents and family and give the minimum possible sentence.” The judge did.
When Joey’s father was asked how he could be so forgiving. He said” I did what I thought was right.” With this simple response, Joey’s grieving dad performed the supreme act of Christian charity. He forgave.
How Was Joey’s father able to do this? Perhaps he saw humanity-our humanity- staring at him through this whole occurrence. Our humanity usually means well, but it doesn’t always perform well. Joey’s father didn’t just see his son’s killer, but rather he saw a good kid who made a tragic mistake and now endures its consequences
On the other hand Joey’s dad may have seen a hope-filled future too. Much like the Bishop did with prisoner, 24601, Jean Valjean, who stole candlesticks in the musical, Les Mes. The bishop saw something of goodness and promise in Jean and he too let Jean Valjean go.
Both Brendan and Jean Valjean made critical mistakes, but these “critical mistakes” are not what our true being is about. We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jesus always saw our great capacity to be more than we are at any given moment. In fact he came to give us the special vision to see that. When we forgive another person, we are asked to look at this other person who harmed us as someone who is “fully human” i.e. capable of also having goodness and even greatness.
This is not easy to do. Jesus knows this. But he also knows we are capable of achieving it. And to do this, we need the eyes of faith, and in some cases big eyes of faith exactly like those of Joey’s father. Joey’s father found the grace to stretch beyond his grief to forgive.
From His cross and through His resurrection, Jesus continues to show us all the way to forgive. Today He asks us to be like Joey’s father, and the forgiving Bishop and follow this same way. Jesus knows from experience that when we forgive, we always live the present moment a little bit better.