What Paul the Apostle praises in our 1st reading today at Mass and Jesus urges in the gospel is a love that reaches out beyond our friends and those close by. Paul sees this love in the collection taken up by the Macedonians for the poor in Jerusalem. It’s a graced love, Paul says, expanding your care and your vision. Your love is like God’s.(2 Corinthians 8,1-9)
Jesus urges the same kind of love in the gospel. God’s love is like the sun that shines on everyone, life the rain that falls on the just and the unjust. It’s not an easy love, but if you wish to be perfect “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5,43-48)
A couple of years ago CNN carried a story of that kind of love. Paula Cooper was released from the Rockville Correctional Facility in Indiana yesterday, a free woman. In 1985 as a young girl of 15 she decided to steal some money from a 76 year old bible teacher, Ruth Pelke. After smoking marijuana and drinking wine, she went to her home, hit Pelke with a vase and stabbed her in the stomach thirty times–for $10.
Leading the pleas for Cooper’s release, was Pelke’s grandson, Bill Pelke, who said he forgave her shortly after Cooper was sentenced to death.
Here’s the CNN story:
“’I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my grandmother would have had love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family,’ Pelke told CNN. ‘I felt she wanted someone in my family to have that same sort of love and compassion. I didn’t have any but was so convinced that’s what she would have wanted, I begged God to give me love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family and do that on behalf of my grandmother.’”
“He said it was ‘a short prayer,’ but it was answered.
“’For a year and a half, whenever I thought about my grandmother, I always pictured how she died. It was terrible,’ he said. ‘But when my heart was touched with compassion, forgiveness took place. I knew from that moment on when I think about her, I would no longer pictured how she died, but I would picture how she lived, and what she stood for, what she believed in — the beautiful, wonderful person she was.’”
“Pelke tried to visit Cooper in 1986, but the two didn’t come face to face until eight years later. The two struck up an unlikely friendship over the years, exchanging messages through the prison e-mail system every week. And in 1989, the Indiana Supreme Court reduced Cooper’s death sentence to 60 years in prison.”
“Pelke said he would like to help Cooper with her transition to life outside of prison.
‘I hope that we’re able to go out and have a meal. I’ve told her when she got out of prison I’d like to buy her a computer and I have a friend that would like to buy her some clothes. Hopefully we’ll get together within the next few days and go shopping,’ he said.”
“Pelke said he’s never asked Cooper to explain her actions – ‘There’s not a good answer for that’ — but said she has shown remorse for the killing.
‘She would take it back in a heartbeat if she could, but she knows she has to live with it for the rest of her life,’ he said. ‘She knows she took something valuable out of society. She wants to try to give back. She wants to help work with other young people to avoid the pitfals she fell into.’”
There’s an example of perfect love.