All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon For love of you, through those who endure Sickness and trials. Happy those who endure in peace, By you, Most High, they will be crowned. (Canticle of Brother Sun)
Saint Francis was very attentive to the needs of the world around him, including what his native city required. When the bishop and the mayor of Assisi were once engaged in a bitter dispute, Francis revised his “Canticle of the Creatures” to praise those who extend pardon for love of you. Francis wrote these verses and instructed several friars to sing them before the mayor and bishop, then leave without saying anything else. The mayor and bishop immediately asked one another’s forgiveness for this feud and began working to improve the lives of all Assisi’s citizens.
The bishop and mayor may have been like many people who consider forgiveness a sign of weakness and not a sign of strength. When they moved toward how God sees forgiveness (a step toward greater honesty in all their relationships), then there was no fear that one side might win at the expense of the other. Forgiveness facilitates a win/win outcome.
Forgiveness does not require that people lie to themselves, for example, to deny that certain painful things have happened. But no one’s pain is the whole truth about any situation. The more honest people are, the less inflated their egos are and the less territory they feel they must defend.
Francis lived in a very status-conscious society where people frequently felt that their dignity was not being sufficiently respected. It would be nice but untrue to say that such feelings have totally disappeared today.
Loving God, you know how easy it is for us to refuse to forgive, to nurse a grudge, keeping it forever raw and fresh. Help us to get over the idea that forgiveness is a sign of weakness and instead to see it for the sign of strength that it truly is—as Jesus powerfully demonstrated on the cross.