Love takes many forms and our readings today draw attention to a way of loving that is particularly appropriate to humans, and also particularly difficult for us. I refer to forgiveness.
It is impossible for two people to be so in tune with each other that no hurt occurs. Apart from gross selfishness, we can hurt others through forgetfulness, lack of attention, or insensitivity leading to unintended hurtful words and actions. Even at our best, we are going to be hurtful lovers. In this scenario, if loving relationships are to survive and thrive, it is essential that love be expressed through forgiveness sought and granted.
Isaiah said to God “Treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle and very merciful”. We believe that no matter what we have done, when we repent of our sins God forgives us and sets us free. As Pope Francis said, “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.” (THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL 3), and again “whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he [the Lord] makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and start anew.”
There is a price to pay. It requires people with the “humble and contrite souls” of which Isaiah speaks, people with the honesty and humility to admit that they do make mistakes and hurt others. It also means recognizing that forgiveness is a process and in our hearts, we may have to revisit the hurt and forgive not just seven times but seventy-seven times.
But think of the blessings. How wonderful to be able to say of a partner or friend “with a tenderness that ever disappoints, we make it possible for one another to lift up our heads and start anew.” Truly blessed are we when we have a partner or a friend like that.
A reflection written by John Byrne O.S.A., from our Irish Province
Follow the Order of Saint Augustine (O.S.A.), Province of England and Scotland
Take a moment to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (cf Luke 2,19)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Col 4:6