......how the same theme keeps turning up time and again during our spiritual readings, when we're dealing with an issue we need to change in our lives? Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, I pick up to read this Lent is cracking me right between the eyes about forgiveness. I am beginning to believe God is trying to tell me something! [Just kidding here, by the way. Actually I KNOW He is trying to tell me something!]
Part of my reading this Lent has been the daily readings in In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez. It had been recommended to me by several different people, but I had put off trying it. Finally, just before Lent, I had to go to St. Anthony's book and church supplies store, and there it was--staring me in the face. So, I gave in and bought the Lent and Eastertide volume. It has been a purchase that I've not regretted.
But here's one paragraph that I have bookmarked, and I feel compelled to go back and read every day:
Although you might see something bad, do not instantly judge your neighbour, advises St. Bernard, but, rather, excuse him interiorly. Excuse the intention if you are unable to excuse the action. Consider it as if done in ignorance, or unawares, or through weakness. If the matter is so weighty that you cannot possibly overlook it, then try to believe the following and say to yourself: the temptation must have been very strong!
What a wonderful goal. Not to say that an offense has not happened--that is objectively impossible sometimes. But at least to attribute it to the most charitable possible motive. Not to rush to the assumption that it was meant evilly and hurtfully.
And you know, isn't this really the truth? I can count on less than 10 fingers the times in my life that someone literally set out to hurt me, in particular, in specific. Sure, I've been hurt by people's actions and decisions, by their words and assumptions. But in 99% of those cases, the hurt was not aimed at me in particular. It was a situation where something was said in haste, or in carelessness, in tiredness or in frustration. If I were a lawyer, I couldn't in any way consider it premeditated.
St. Bernard, thank you for the words that I needed to read this Lent. Oh, and St. Bernard? Pray for me, and my stiff-necked, unforgiving attitude.