THE ETHOS OF CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS
READ: Matthew 6:14,15
And Jesus continued, “Yes, if you forgive others of their failings [sins], your heavenly Father will forgive you yours,’ but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings [sins] either.” – Matthew 6: 14,15
Yes, Brother Anselm draws forth flowers from all their hiding places. He is the resident and gifted gardener here at Greyfriars’ Abbey. It seems wherever Brother Anselm chooses to be, flowers rise up and come to greet him. Whether it is his orchids that hang from all the low hanging branches in the Cloister, or the flower beds by the chapel doors, or the flowers in all the window boxes, or the acre of roses in the Memory Garden, and even the unintended wildflowers that appear here and there, in all the in between places it seems that they all look to Brother Anselm as he passes by.
I asked Brother Anselm his secret when it comes to flowers. He was shy to answer… which is also his way …, so a nearby Brother answered on his behalf ….“The flowers can sense that Brother Anselm loves them so. So they love to come live with him.” Brother Anselm blushed, but then also offered a look which said, “Maybe so.”
For the Christian disciple, forgiveness is a way of life, an ethos of what it means to have the life of Christ living within you and through you. Oh, it may begin as an act of obedience or an act of faithfulness this bestowing of forgiveness, but eventually it becomes the essence of who we are and who we were meant to be … instruments of God’s grace where the grace comes quite naturally. Some might say that as the Christian disciple matures, an “aura” of forgiveness comes upon him or her, a godly grace that radiates more and more from their way and manner, from their words and deeds. And then wherever they may go, this aura of forgiveness draws forth more forgiveness from all its hiding places. For you see … it is a foundational premise of the Christian Way that forgiveness begets forgiveness, mercy begets mercy, love begets love. It is what I have come to call Christ’s initiative of grace. This power of life-changing, world-changing grace is at the very heart and ought to extend all the way to the very edges of our lives … in Christ.
The other day, a visitor came to the Abbey. To me, he seemed a stranger but probably was more a saintly sojourner who happened to come our way. He came up to me and asked, “Father, could you hear my confession?” I answered with a bit of fear in my heart, “Sir, I am not a priest. I am not even a Catholic.” He looked at me with a bit of puzzlement noticing my Benedictine cross and my friars’ work clothes … but then he continued …“But you are a Christian, aren’t you?” I answered, “Well, yes.” With that, the man began sharing his confession with me in hope of experiencing forgiveness. I said a prayer with him. And as he left, this almost angelic sojourner made a parting comment that I kept as a profound word. He said, …”Wherever there is Christ, forgiveness can be found.” And the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote …“and remember to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
Yes, Brother Anselm, he draws forth flowers from all their hiding places … and they do so … because they sense that he loves them … and so they come to life for him so that they might live together. Christ and the Christ within us has a power of like kind.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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