" Ali the World's Queer"
I ONCE heard a story that shocked
me profoundly. It was of a woman who, on her deathbed, turned to her assembled family—two of whom had nursed her devotedly through a most trying and difficult illness—and said: "I forgive you all." Those were her last words arrd they
were quoted to me as evidence of her nobility of character and beauty of spirit.
It is unnecessary to state here that this poor soul was not a Catholic, but even without Catholic teaching it seems a terrible thing that anyone should die Nowell, smugly, is, I am afraid the only word that seems at all adequate.
It is Maurine I 'think, who points out that perhaps our deepest unworthiness may lie in those very moments when we are striving to bear most patiently with the faults of others. It is a disturbing thought and one that, to be honestly reflected upon, requires the reversal of many a comfortable axiom and, what is more difficult to achieve, a shifting of perspective.
Like that poor soul who set out upon her last journey unheeding of her own deep need for forgiveness, we are apt to go about our daily life making too conscious an effort to put up with our trials and crosses, whether they take the shape of the circumstances in which we have been placed or the people we find it difficult to put up with. It is always, when you come to think of it, other people who have what are commonly called idiosyncracies and ourselves who have what we are pleased to dub characteristics!
"All the world's queer," runs the old Quaker saying. " save thee and me; and
even thee's a little queer." That is an attitude that is almost universal, whether we recognise it or not, and it is at the root, not only of private misunderstanding and individual unhappiness but also of international cross purposes.
THE solution, of course, is to be found
in that most unpalatable of all the commandments: " Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." We are all of us —presumably—anxious 'to love our neighbour if only he would show himself a little more lovable!
" Where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile." In other words: the world is so lovely and so interesting a place that if only our fellow creatures did not make life so difficult we should really
be very happy, very nice, and very charitable people.
Sorrow and suffering we could put up with, indeed we might even take a certain noble pleasure in resigning ourselves to them, but our fellow man—no, really, he makes things too complicated; he deliberately misunderstands us, deceives us, tries to get the better of us, etc., etc. We must forgive him. of course, because we all try to exercise Christian charity, but it becomes increasingly hard and does use up a great deal of spiritual energy. So, in our meaner moments, run our thoughts, wearing grooves of self-pity.and self-justification through our minds and hollowing out channels, not for the Love of God to dwell in but for the love of self, self that, if it settles down too cornfortably is all too ready to grow smug and to come dangerously near to forgetting its own dire need of forgiveness because it is so consciously forgiving those that trespass against it.
THERE is the simplicity of perfect
balance in the prayer that Our Lord gave for our use, but balance is the Eden we have lost. We grope about in a tangled undergrowth of self-delusion and vain imaginings, and go down any winding bypath rather than keep to the plain, straight, simple highway that He has pointed out to us.
'Many, judging the commandments of God by their own weakness and not by the strength of the Saints, consider those things that are commanded to he impossible. and they say it is sufficient virtue 1101 to hate our. enemies; as for loving them, that is enjoining more than human nature can bear. We must know, therefore, that what Christ has commanded is a counsel of perfection but not impossible . . . For omitting other good 'corks, sometimes some kind of excuse may be alleged, but no man can he excused for not loving . . . for in this case the feet are not wearied by running, the ears with hearing, 1101do the hands grow weak front labouring. It is not said to us: `Go to the East and seek for charity; sail to the West and you shall find love.' It is within our heart whither we arc commanded to return, according to the prophet: ' Return, ye transgressors, to the heart.' For what is asked of us is not to he found in remote regions."
Love is the fulfilling of 'the Law. It is as simple as that. But because we cannot bring ourselves to love we go on striving to forgive. We pray that His Kingdom may come here on earth as it eternally is in Heaven, but we cannot face the two Commandments that would build it, here and now. within our heart, the kingdom that is not to be found in remote regions,