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Friday, July 23, 2021

Friday Morning Musing on a Spiritual Work of Mercy...

...specifically -- To Bear Wrongs Patiently. 

Many of us would like everyone else to practice the golden rule: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you! 

But do we practice it?

The human tendency and a great temptation might be called the iron rule: Do unto others what they do to you. If someone brings a knife to a fight, you take a gun is the philosophy of our modern pagans. 

The biblical admonition of an "eye for an eye" was actually a rule that limited the punishment for wrongdoing. If someone committed a crime against another person, the punishment had to be balanced. You couldn't kill someone for robbing you. What sounds harsh was actually a brake on the human tendency to seek revenge.

Sigrid Undset wrote extensively about the Middle Ages in her beloved Norway. One of her novels, The Axe, focuses on the philosophy of the vendetta. Here's the description from Amazon:

Set in thirteenth-century Norway, a land racked by political turmoil and bloody family vendettas, The Axe is the first volume in Sigrid Undset's epic tetralogy, The Master of Hestviken. In it we meet Olav Audunsson and Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter, who were betrothed as children and raised as brother and sister. Now, in the heedlessness of youth, they become lovers, unaware that their ardor will forge the first link in a chain of murder, exile, and disgrace.

Soaringly romantic and psychologically nuanced, Undset's novel is also a meticulous re-creation of a world split between pagan codes of retribution and the rigors of Christian piety--a world where law is a fragile new invention and manslaughter is so common that it's punishable by fine.

Are we sinking back into the culture of the vendetta and revenge? How many of us hold grudges? 

I remember a dear woman in a local nursing home. My husband and I always dropped in to see her during communion calls although she wasn't a Catholic. 

Mary (not her real name) would not forgive her daughter for placing her there. Her care giver got sick and couldn't continue and her daughter couldn't take care of her. 

No matter how much the administrator of the home tried to get Mary  to forgive, she clung to her anger and hostility even on her deathbed. Her daughter loved her mother and was heartbroken. As for Mary she made the chilling statement to me several times that she would probably go to hell. Please pray for her. She had a clear mind even in her 90s, but could not let go of her attachment to hearth and home or recognize the value of bearing her situation patiently.

Some things we are called to bear have nothing to do with "wrongs," but only the difficult challenges of life. 

I hope your burdens are light today. If they feel heavy know that bearing them patiently is like shining the jewels in your crown for the afterlife. Everyone suffers. Let's not waste what is actually a gift from the Lord for our sanctification.  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dear Mary Ann,

A very thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing it. I learned a process of forgiveness from a therapist (with a strong Catholic background) and it helped me a great deal. May God bless you!