And You Will Be Forgiven

There is good reason to be astonished that men should sin so boldly in the sight of Heaven and earth and show so little fear of the most high God.

Yet it is a much greater cause of astonishment that while we multiply our iniquities beyond the sands of the sea and have so great a need for God to be kind and indulgent, we are nevertheless so demanding ourselves. Such indignity and such injustice! We want God to suffer everything from us, and we are not able to suffer anything from anyone. We exaggerate beyond measure the faults committed against us; worms that we are, we take the slightest pressure exerted on us to be an enormous attack. Meanwhile, we count as nothing what we undertake proudly against the sovereign majesty of God and the rights of his empire!

Blind and wretched mortals: will we always be so sensitive and delicate? Will we never open our eyes to the truth? Will we never understand that the one who does injury to us is always much more to be pitied than are we who receive the injury? That he pierces his own heart while merely grazing our skin, and that, in the end, our enemies are mad; wanting to make us drink all the venom of their hatred, they do so first themselves, swallowing the very poison they have prepared? Since those who do evil to us are unhealthy in mind, why do we embitter them by our cruel vengeance? Why do we not rather seek to bring them back to reason by our patience and mildness?

And You Will Be Forgiven

This article is from Meditations for Lent, which is made available by Sophia Institute Press.

Yet we are far removed from these charitable dispositions. Far from making the effort at self-command that would enable us to endure an injury, we think that we are lowering ourselves if we do not take pride in being delicate in points of honor. We even think well of ourselves for our extreme sensitivity. And we carry our resentment beyond all measure, either exercising a pitiless vengeance upon those who anger us, or consoling ourselves with burdening them by making a show of our patience or by feigning tranquility in order to insult them all the more. We are such cruel enemies and implacable avengers that we even turn patience and pity into the weapons of our anger!

Yet these are not our worst excesses, for we do not always wait for actual injuries in order to be irritated. Shadows, jealousies, and hidden opposition suffice to arm us against one another. We often come to hate for the sole reason of believing ourselves to be hated. Anxiety seizes us. We fear injuries before they come, and, carried off by our suspicions, we avenge what has not yet taken place.

All this we must stop. We must take care how we speak about our neighbor. That little word, the dart casually tossed, the malicious tale that gives rise to so many straying thoughts by its affected obliqueness: none of these will fall to the earth. “No secret word is without result” (Wisd. 1:11). We must take care of what we say and bridle our malicious anger and unruly tongues. For there is a God in Heaven who has told us that he will demand a reckoning of our “careless words” (Matt. 12:36): what recompense shall he exact for those which are harmful and malicious? We ought, therefore, to revere his eyes and his presence.

Let us ponder the fact that he will judge us as we have judged our neighbor. If we pardon, he will pardon us; if we avenge our injuries, we will “suffer vengeance from the Lord” (Sir. 28:1). His vengeance will pursue us in life and in death, and we will have no rest either in this world or the next.

Let us, then, not wait until the hour of death to pardon our enemies, but let us practice what St. Paul taught: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26). The apostle’s tender, paternal heart could not comprehend that a Christian — a child of peace — could sleep peacefully with a heart that was ulcerated and embittered toward his brother, nor that he could enjoy any rest while willing evil to his neighbor, whose interests God has taken in hand. The light is waning, the sun sets: the apostle gives you no time to waste. You have barely enough time to obey him. We must no longer delay this necessary work.

Let us hasten to hand our resentment over to God. If we reserve all of the business of our salvation until the day of our death, it will be far too busy a day. Let us begin now to prepare for the graces that we will need then, and, by pardoning those who hurt us, let us assure ourselves of the eternal mercy of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Editor’s note: This article is from Meditations for Lentwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press

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Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704) was a theologian and French bishop. With a great knowledge of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, he devoted himself to writing in a way that was approachable to every person. Though lionized by the great English converts such as Waugh, Belloc, and Knox, his writing has only recently been made available in English. His Meditations for Advent is available from Sophia Institute Press.

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