BY SR. LAURETTA LEIPZIG
There’s a story that tells us about two friends who were walking through the desert. During some point of their journey they had an argument and one friend hit the other. The one who was struck was hurt, but without saying anything he wrote in the sand. “Today my best friend hit me.” They kept on walking until they found an oasis where they decided to stop for a rest. The one who had been hit got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning he wrote on a stone: “Today my best friend saved my life.” The friend asked, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now you wrote on a stone. Why?” The reply: “When someone hurts us we should write it down on sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it on a stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
This story can remind us of Pope Francis’ many discourses on the topic of forgiveness. We need only to capture his words to understand the emphasis he places on this important subject. His homilies clearly stress God’s never-ending patience, God’s love and mercy which, if repeated in our lives can, he believes, change everything. The Pope refers often to Jesus’ attitude toward this virtue through the words he preached and his words recorded in the gospels. He reminds us that we do not hear words of contempt or condemnation, but only words of love, mercy and an invitation to conversion in the parables and directives of Jesus. We cannot help but note that Jesus introduced the idea of forgiveness through the often repeated words of the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That’s a tall order! In one of the Pope’s presentations he pleads with his listeners and to all of us to “Open your hearts and make peace, taking the path of ‘three little things’ – humility, gentleness and patience – in dealing with forgiveness in our relationships.” These, he says, are not optional; they are a command to us as Christians!
We can also turn to Bishop Barron who speaks on forgiveness. “Forgiveness is a gift,” he says, “and a gift usually requires a return of some sort.” We might say it usually has “strings attached.” But Jesus taught us to forgive with no expectation, love others and not expect their love in return. Thus, he calls forgiveness an “icon of Divine Love.” It is not natural but, because it is rooted in love of God, it is possible and expected that we can offer forgiveness. We are urged to will the good to anyone, even those who do not will our good in return. Reiterating the words of the Pope who says forgiveness is not an option, Barron reminds us that there can be no room for withholding forgiveness! Let us ask ourselves, is our forgiveness written on stone or on sand?