“Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?” —Matthew 18:21
Forgiveness is quite possibly the most difficult and yet essential action necessary for anyone living in community. Unless we’re hermits, that includes all of us. Throughout the accounts of Francis’ life, we see examples of how the first friars were inspired by him to resolve their differences. Forgiveness was always rooted in the virtues of love and humility.
One day two of the brothers came upon a madman who started throwing stones at them; and when one saw a stone aimed at the other he intercepted it, wishing rather to receive the blow himself. Indeed, each was ready to give his life for the other. This and similar things were possible because they were so deeply rooted in mutual love: each one humbly reverenced his brother as a father or mother; and those brothers who held some office, or were distinguished by some special gift appeared the most humble and unpretentious of all….
Life in community always has its rough spots. But as with the Gospel, the ideal is always there, difficult as it is. We need to hear Jesus’ words about forgiveness until we stop asking the question, “How often must I forgive?”