Saint Clare

The hallmark of Saint Clare’s sanctity was her complete devotion to the naked poverty of Christ Crucified which inspired her to embrace a life of penance, expressed through near absolute poverty.  In this she was as radical as her mentor Saint Francis.  Poverty and penance, along with devotion to Christ’s Passion, is what distinguishes the Franciscan charism from all other schools of spirituality.  God calls us all to follow him, each in our own unique way.  No matter where we come from, or what our spiritual tradition, what unites us is our celebration of the Mass together.

When we hear the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, we find ourselves asking: what was the matter with this man?  Didn’t he understand that he just had a huge debt forgiven him?  How could he be so cruel to his fellow servant, who owed him just a fraction of what he himself had owed the king?  And we cap off our reaction with the classic line: Well, of course, I would never behave like that!

In monetary terms, it seems silly to have a £10,000 debt forgiven, and then to hassle someone who owes us a few pence.  But the issue gets murkier when the topic changes to forgiving someone who has hurt or offended us.  For some reason, we tend to find it harder to forgive personal offences against us, despite the fact that God has forgiven us a multitude of sins.  If we are forgiving at all, our mercy tends to be limited to those who are close to us, or to those whose offences are very minor.

So how can we get out of this trap?  Well, by taking up the practice of Blind Mercy.  The principle behind blind mercy simply says: ‘If anyone hurts me or offends me in any way—big or small—I will forgive them, just as Jesus has forgiven me.’  Now, this will obviously be easier on the small, insignificant offences.  But on the larger ones, where trust has been broken through infidelity or abuse, it will obviously take longer and be more difficult.

And so, we need to take little steps each day, asking God, who shows equal mercy to all, to heal us.  If we keep forgiving, and if we keep asking forgiveness for our own sins, then we will see progress.  Anxieties will fall away, and we will know a sense of freedom that can sustain us no matter what challenges we face.

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