Jan 11, 2008

An Enlarged Heart

"Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind. It is the shame of prayer, a cutting off of supplication, a turning away from love, a nail piercing the soul. It is a pleasure less feeling cherished in the sweetness of bitterness. It is a never-ending sin, an unsleeping wrong, rancor by the hour. A dark and loathsome passion, it comes to be but has no offspring, so that one need not say much about it. A man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs, since offspring can come only from a living parent." St. John of the Ladder

Father Stephen pens a convicting essay on the issue of forgiving others. You might want to read it in its entirety - The Remembrance of Wrongs - if you're up for a bruising. I have never seen myself as a person who holds grudges against others, at least according to my definition. However, I find that God's definitions frequently differ quite a bit from mine! He doesn't stop at "do not hold grudges" but continues by insisting that we "forgive one another" and, further, to love them with a sacrificial love. When someone wrongs me, betrays my confidence, slanders my character, what is my immediate reaction? I cannot admit to thoughts of love and concern for them. Typically, such actions toward me result in mycastle1.jpg placing them on my "enemies" list and someone to avoid in the future. The drawbridge goes up and soldiers are sent to the towers to defend the castle! This is not at all the example that our Lord set before us as he hung on the cross, nor our dear brother, Stephen, while he was being stoned to death. We have never experienced such rejection and suffering, and yet their responses were the same toward their accusers: (The Lord)"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" and (Stephen)"Lord, lay not this sin to their charge". These requests came from the very depths of their hearts. Their love for others was greater than any injury or insult they could sustain.

If this makes you uncomfortable (as I am) about your present attitude toward certain individuals who have hurt you, the incorrect thing to do is to concentrate on not holding grudges and trying to be more kind to others. The piece that is missing is not a need for more forgiveness but a need for more love toward others. Love of this depth and magnitude is supernatural and can only come from God's Spirit working in and though us. We cannot produce it ourselves. We can manufacture a weak likeness to it, but it has no power, no life-changing qualities. What is needed is more humility - realizing our propensity to sin in our thoughts, words, and actions. And humility comes as we gaze upon Christ and see how spiritually needy we truly are. Others are the same. We are in the same boat. They need his grace and mercy just as much as we do. As we beseech the Lord daily to purify our hearts, we will find greater capacity to love those around us.
"The purer the heart becomes, the larger it becomes." St. John of Kronstadt

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