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God's Tender Mercy Reflections on Forgiveness

God's Tender Mercy Reflections on Forgiveness

Joan Chittister
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Sister Joan Chittister is a bestselling author for a very good reason. She takes difficult and even mysterious concepts and 'breaks them open' for us. Here she tackles the virture of mercy and its connection to forgiveness. She challenges us to stop judging, accusing, and criticising those we label 'sinners' and to see ourselves in their number. She invites us to be realistic about our own actions before we 'throw that first stone' at another. This is spiritual reading at its very best.

Chittister taps into the contemporary global mood in which minorities are being condemned, harassed and persecuted. Instead of leading the cause of love and respect for all, many conservative Christian churches are failing to demonstrate love, understanding and compassion.

In her discussion of guilt and conscience, Chittister commends both as healthy aspects of human responsibility. She also writes about the power of forgiveness to free us from the burden of anger: 'What I refuse to forgive continues to harm me. It consumes my heart, poisons my mind, drains my energies and cements my soul.' Forgiveness does not tolerate revenge and that is a lesson that is slowly becoming appreciated.

In the closing chapter of this profoundly prophetic book, Chittister calls us to the spiritual practices of weeping and healing. Of the first, she comments, 'Weeping is a very life-giving thing. It wizens the soul of the individual and it sounds alarms in society. The Book of Ecclesiastes may be nowhere more correct than here. There is definitely a time for weeping. If we do not weep on the personal level, we shall never understand other human beings.'

The spiritual practice of weeping softens our hearts and opens us to the suffering of others and it blesses us with a keen sense that we are all flawed creatures in the same world. Chittister concludes that we cannot heal ourselves by clinging to our wounds. And neither can we contribute to the repairing of the world without practicing forgiveness again and again.

SR JOAN CHITTISTER is a Benedictine nun and author of numerous books, including 'The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer', and other books that have a profound influence on the contemporary religious world.


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