Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Christ did not stand upon His rights before those who accused Him. Christ did not condemn those who sinned against Him when they showed repentance. Christ exercised forbearance to the crowd shouting “Crucify him!” when he cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” Jesus illustrated by his cry, by his sacrifice on the cross, the degree of forbearance God is willing to exercise with us when we come to Him with our sins, seeking forgiveness.
“As far as the East is from the West, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
If we are to be and not wound the Body of Christ, we must exercise the same sort of forbearance. “Pray for your enemies. Bless those who persecute you.” and “if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” It sounds pretty until you have to decide to walk not just that first part of the journey, but the second. It sounds loving and wonderful, warm and fuzzy, until someone does you wrong and you feel justified in your anger, in your wrath, in your frustration, in your hurt. The hurt is real. The anger is real. The desire to stand upon your rights, to show the other person how wrong they are, and to punish or at the very least, hurt back in some capacity, is real.
Yet we know we shall be forgiven as we forgive. Living Catholic in all things, seeing Christ in all faces, being the servant 24/7 and saying, “We are but ungrateful servants,” is hard, as hard as the nails, as hard as the cross. It aches and it aches and it aches and it aches again because it requires surrender. Forbearance isn't sluffing off pain, denying hurt or ignoring injury. Jesus didn't think “no problem” about the nails in his hands and feet or the crown on his head. He didn't pretend that it didn't hurt. He willingly lay down His life as a gift for those who pounded his flesh, who pressed in the crown, who hammered the nails. He did not tolerate the pain — he endured and forgave it.
If there's one thing the world is suffering from, it's a dearth of forbearance. The problem is, forbearance looks like weakness. It looks like being abused, being used and being suckered. The distinction is a spiritual one, which requires the person enduring it to somehow see the dignity in the person causing the injury. It does not hide from the truth, but seeks to engage in speaking the truth to the soul in question with divine charity. It invites those who injure to be part of the solution.
Forbearance may be by prayer for that person's soul, by fasting for them, or by refraining from reliving the pain with a third party, spreading the story of another person's poor decisions or painful actions. This rare virtue isn't timid silence, nor is it mere tolerance. It isn't indifference to injury or to injustice. It's divine love of the soul causing the grievance. It's grace in the face of injustice, in the face of suffering. It does not hide from the truth, but seeks to engage in speaking the truth to the soul in question with divine charity.
We are all, each of us, unjust souls, who have done grave injustice against the body of Christ throughout our lives. It is only by exercising mercy, forbearance and eventually, forgiveness, that we can begin the work of binding the wounds of the world today. It is a hard thing, it requires the grace to try, and the willingness to persist.
Take up that cross, and follow, and all the grace of yesterday must be embraced again today.