Bear Wrongs Patiently
For insight into this particular work of mercy, we look to a saint whose feast we celebrated on the very first day of this month: St. Therese of Lisieux. Upon initial reading of these two episodes within her life as a nun, it may strike us that these are very minor “wrongs.” In that case, I suggest that it is often how we face the small challenges to virtue that becomes indicative of how we will handle the major challenges.
In her Story of a Soul, Saint Therese narrates:
A small jar, left behind a window, was found broken. No one knew who had put it there, but our Mistress was displeased, and, thinking I was to blame in leaving it about, told me I was very untidy and must be more careful in future. Without answering, I kissed the ground and promised to be more observant. I was so little advanced in virtue that these small sacrifices cost me dear, and I had to console myself with the thought that at the day of Judgment all would be known.
Here is another example:
For a long time my place at meditation was near a Sister who fidgeted continually, either with her Rosary, or something else; possibly, as I am very quick of hearing, I alone heard her, but I cannot tell you how much it tried me. I should have liked to turn round, and by looking at the offender, make her stop the noise; but in my heart I knew that I ought to bear it tranquilly, both for the love of God and to avoid giving pain. So I kept quiet, but the effort cost me so much that sometimes I was bathed in perspiration, and my meditation consisted merely in suffering with patience.
Philip Kosloski, who has been quoted in this context before, asserts:
While in a certain sense “justice” appears to say that we should return evil for evil, God does not want us to base our actions on what the world says. He desires that we be “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This means that we need to battle our inner tendencies and not “fight fire with fire,” but seek the “high road” that leads to salvation.
This spiritual work of mercy received its purest expression in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. While reading the Passion narrative during Holy Week our hearts cry out and we want to say to Jesus “You can stop all of this! You are God! Throw down fire and smite these evil Romans!” That is exactly what the Apostles would have said, as revealed in this episode in the Gospels,
“And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.” (Luke 9:51-59, emphasis added)