Last Sunday, a mother of three was deeply moved by a sermon from the Norbertine abbey-church. It deeply spoke to her experience of her three daughters. This particular image stayed with her. ‘On a trip, the boy was carrying his younger brother for miles, as he twisted his ancle. When they arrived, the host of the family told him: it must have been quite a burden to you, it must have been a heavy weight. The boy replied, it is not a burden, he is my brother.’
This banal illustration has a profound truth. This truth makes us Christians. We are baptised in the Lord in order to perceive our neighbours in difficult situations just as the boy did in the example of the sermon. He is not a burden: he is my brother.
This wise saying remains a ‘nice saying’ unless we fully understand what is at stake. Today’s readings direct us towards what is at stake, and even more. God clearly tells us that the quality of life we live together depends on our ability to forgive. Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven. If a man nurses anger against another, can he then demand compassion from the Lord?’ Without God, and our faith in our Saviour, it is a mission impossible. Without the Lord as our daily friend, and our toiling on this friendship, our heart will never forgive those who hurt us. On the x-ray image of our hearts what do angels see? Most often our grudges, our unfinished conflicts, our book-keeping of offences and the fault (the blame on) of others.
With our Lord, on our side, this impossible leap is possible. ‘Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times. Unless we can see the offender as our brother and sister in the Lord, forgiving will remain for us a heavy burden. The boy in our story could have said, ‘yes, it was a heavy burden. I am dead tired because of it.’ He would have been right, just as we are right when saying, ‘forgiving is an impossibly heavy burden.’ Yet, with the Eucharist we receive, with the Lord’s daily friendship, with prayer life, and through the daily experience of Divine Love, we can imitate our Lord. Who sees only his brothers and sisters, and not a heavy burden.
Our readings take us even further than realising what is at stake in our forgiving. The quality of our life, that of the community, wholly depends on practicing this ‘impossible forgiveness’. ‘The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.’ The increase or decrease of violence, mistrust, lies, dishonesty, greediness, and indifference in our culture depends solely on us. Our world becomes a better world, a healthier world, a more beautiful world, a more peaceful world if we take up the cross of this impossible task of forgiving.
For when we forgive, we not only reduce violence, and bring the air of peace into the world. Far more happens than that. When we forgive, joy and light come into our life. We get focused, our thinking becomes more efficient, our mind and heart gets more clear, our emotions are more positive and constructive.
Let us think of the victory of the boy in our example, and the victory of Our Lord, which made possible his beautiful confession. He or she is not a burden; not an enemy, not a rival. ‘He is my brother; my sister.’ It is not a burden; ‘It is the Lord!’
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A beautiful image of our Christian dignity, though not a direct one. ‘I place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; should he open, one shall close, should he close, none shall open…he will become a throne of glory for his father’s house’ (Is 22:23) This shows the dignity of the Christian soul, in our relationship to the office of our Lord. An image comes to our mind, as it were, all of us are ‘knighted’, again, indirectly, by the Father.
All of our readings invite us to see on the side of Christ. They invite us to see the dignity which the participation in his work enthrusts upon us. Thaty is why we pray:‘I thank you, Lord, with all my heart: you have heard the wrods of my mouth.’ This image, from our responsorial psalm, highlights ‘the role of our mouth’, the importance of a permanent and regular prayer.
Thus, as our second reading shows us, we can contemplate ‘how rich are the depths of God, how deep his wisdom and knowledge, and how impossible to penetrate his motives and understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?...To him be glory for ever!’
Regular prayer, both in words and in charity, will enable us to repeat Peter’s words: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!’ Let us think about, what happens, when we share these words. Let it be our prayer, repeated in many times, in many situations. This prayer will make a wonderful difference. Our joy will be increased, the wounds we caused to others, and the ones we received, will be healed, and our heart, and our world, will become more beautiful. At least, closer to the beauty where it is supposed to be.
Let me share a detail of an icon, which shows Christ’s face. The exercise is simple. Just contemplate the beauty of Christ’s divine lips. See in it the wisdom of the eternal Son of God, his outpouring and healing love, the words of his teaching ministry. These lips spoke to Peter; they spoke to the Father, and they are speaking to us. The ‘exercise’ is to link our own mouth to that of our Saviour. Let us imitate him, let us see the positivity of his words, which left his lips, the thoughts, which were formed into words, which went through his throat and toungue. Let this Love purify our thoughts, our mouth, our breathing.
Let we speak, and think, and act, as Jesus intends us to speak, think and act. Let our first words be, before anything else that follows, good resolutions, prayers, those of Saint Peter. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!’
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..