Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Seventy-Seven Times

By Beth DeCristofaro

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  (Matthew 18:21-22)

Visiting with a critically ill hospital patient, I shared with her, without breaking confidence, that her son had told me how much he loved his mother and that she taught him life’s important lessons such as hard work and service to others.  This elderly woman’s face lit up with a smile and her eyes teared-up.  “He did?” she responded.  “We always seem to be so irritated with each other.  I didn’t know.”  We can find it so difficult to offer each other words of love because we, ourselves, are blocked.  We might grudgingly allow someone back into our good graces without ever offering clearly spoken forgiveness.  That actually causes us and the other to be imprisoned by the barricades in our hearts and between us.

Years ago I learned the hard way how not to “sandbag” someone when I turned in what I thought was a concise, critical yet constructive criticism of my grad school facilitator.  He received it with some surprise and responded that I could have told him of my dissatisfaction and we could have worked on that together in the course.  Well, I thought I had told him because, throughout the difficult course, there was much frustrated back and forth between students and facilitators.  In looking back honestly, however, I realized that I had been obscure, silent or made sidebar type comments which were not clear, not helpful.  Christ wants me to speak up courageously in justice guided by love.  Seventy times seven is not just an image of many but a guide to generosity.  My facilitator needed truth but I needed to be truth-teller rather than uninvolved in my own dissatisfaction.

St. Clare took action, refusing to marry as her family wished, choosing to dedicate herself as a bride of Christ.  To whom should I, today, take action and clearly, lovingly, speak Christ’s truth?  What if I need to speak such truth to myself?

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