On February 8, we celebrated the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, whose life was burdened with many wrongs. She was kidnapped when she was 7, sold into slavery, and resold several times, bearing a lot of abuse along the way. In 1883, Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan, bought her and, two years later, took her to Italy and gave her to a friend and his family. Eventually, she learned about the Catholic faith, was baptized, got her freedom, and became a well-loved sister.
A willingness to forgive and show mercy were highlights of her life and sainthood. She was once asked, “What would you do if you were to meet your captors?” Her response: “I would kneel and kiss their hands. For if those things had not happened, I would not have been a Christian and a religious today.”
In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis asks us to reflect on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He says we have to admit that the practice of mercy is waning in our culture. It’s time, he says, “to return to basics and bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters.”
The sixth spiritual work of mercy is “bearing wrongs patiently.” Who of us hasn’t been cut off in traffic by another driver and didn’t bear the wrong patiently? Having to wait in a long line at a store can make us lose our cool. Cleaning up after someone who habitually leaves a mess can test our patience.
The “wrongs” can be more serious, such as lies or gossip that poison a friendship or a marriage. We can be the victim of false information that keeps us from getting a promotion. Sometimes we may be able to talk and reconcile with the offender, but often all we can do is admit that life is not always fair. We have to smile and bear it.
Bearing Wrongs Patiently
But there are always alternatives. We can leave justice to God and not try to get even. Jesus asks us to be merciful and forgive: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. God makes his sun rise on the bad and on the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust” (Mt 5). St. Paul tells us that “love is patient” and “does not brood over injuries” (1 Cor 13).
Jesus himself showed great restraint when the soldier slapped him as he was awaiting trial. For those who scourged him, forced him to carry the cross to Calvary, and then nailed him to it, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Jesus forgave Peter, who betrayed him, and the other apostles who deserted him. Bearing wrongs patiently has its rewards.
Instead of brooding over injuries or slipping into self-pity, we can enjoy a peaceful heart. By growing in the virtue of patience, we can gain self-control and maturity. We first received mercy from God. That allows us to be instruments of mercy and forgiveness in this Year of Mercy.
A Year of Mercy
Pope Francis has long made mercy one of the primary focuses of his papacy.
Because he has sought to reach those in the fold as well as those on the periphery, the pope declared that the Jubilee of Mercy will begin on December 8, 2015 (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and conclude on November 20, 2016 (the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe). It’s a special, holy year which will focus on the breadth of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Click here to enjoy our page devoted to the Year of Mercy!
Dear Friar Jim: Thank you for the reminder: when we suffer, we must offer it up to Jesus. Sister Agnes
A: Dear Sr. Agnes: Your point is especially important. On the cross, Jesus felt alone. Often we turn in to ourselves and lose sight of the fact that the Father was never closer to Jesus than at that terrible moment. Friar Jim
Dear Friar Jim: Your E-spiration touched my heart and soul. I needed that. Thank you. Linda
A: Dear Linda: I am more aware of all the millions of people who are abandoned, unloved, and unwanted. Sometimes that puts our own experience into perspective. Friar Jim