Posted On April 11, 2024

Why do you say I am wrong?

“If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” (John 18:23)

“I did not do wrong. Why do you keep telling me it’s my fault? Is it possible that you cannot see that I am right? Tell me, then: what did I say wrong? Go ahead: prove to me where the error is. You cannot prove it… that is obvious, because I am right. So… leave me alone, don’t harass me… let me live in peace.”

It happened to me. Being falsely accused. Accused of having done, said, thought, something wrong; yet having a clear conscience, sure that you acted correctly.

Being falsely accused hurts, it hurts a lot. I don’t know if you have ever experienced it. When you painfully note the impossibility of seeing your reasons recognized, feelings of sadness, anger, disbelief, disappointment arise in your heart. “Why do you strike me?” “Why do you skin me, torment me?”. These are the terms that translate the Greek verb δέρω, in John’s verse. When they tell you that it was you who spoke badly of that colleague, passing him by, stealing his promotion; when they mock you because you believe in God and “maybe you even go to the parish …” so people start making fun of you, of priests, the Pope and the Church. Or when …When? Add your “when”: when did you feel unjustly persecuted, by whom and why? What did you feel?

In such cases we often close ourselves off or plot subtle revenge. We really can’t stand being falsely accused. We do not accept it. We feel anger, frustration, sadness. Let us now observe Jesus. What does He do when He is slapped by the guard? The pure of the pure, the Holy of Holies, the most prefect among men, the second person of the Trinity… being slapped, insulted, misunderstood, disowned, slandered, blasphemed… what else… that is the injustice of injustices. The total injustice! He acts in a very particular way: he asks the soldier for an explanation:

“If I have spoken wrongly, tell me: where do you think I was wrong?” Of course, He knows He has not erred, it is clear. Why does He question the guard then? Because Jesus is interested in that brother, He wants to enter into a relationship with him; He wants to give him a chance to rethink his act of violence, to find out the causes, the root of that evil within him that led him to act this way. It does not condemn him, it does not guilt him; instead, it helps him get in front of himself, invites him to introspection, to ask himself:

“Why did I act this way? Perhaps to make myself look good in front of the high priest? To show others my courage? Or maybe I am picking on the weakest to take revenge for all the injustices I suffer every day from those who have power over me? Where does all this desire to humiliate come from?” Jesus loves this man. With that question he helps him make contact with his suffering and sins, not to accuse him but to enable him to change.

What about us? What about me? How can I be acting in the way of Jesus, facing those who persecute me? Too difficult, you may think. I tell you: not too difficult… impossible! “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27). Seeing in the persecutor a brother to be helped, is not the thing of men, and that is why only God’s Grace in us can work all this.

Then the first step I can take, in order to live a situation of persecution, is to ask Jesus to help me recognize in the other a brother loved by Him and not an enemy. For him Jesus shed his own blood and died on the cross. I probably find it hard to believe this, because I dwell solely on the slap and the pain it causes me. However, I can try to pray for the one who is slapping me. I may say something like this:

“Lord, I pray to you for this brother… (name) who is persecuting me. You love him, help me to love him, to put aside my pride, my judgment of him. Help him to come back into himself, to understand where all this hostility, this jealousy he has towards me, comes from. Help him to discover the truth of himself so that he can live free and happy. Make me an instrument of love and not hate. Use me to help him.”

The second step I can take is trying to ask the person who is taunting me this question: “Where did I misspeak? Explain your reasons. I am willing to question myself. I am not infallible, I am not God, so I may have said, done or not done some things that hurt you, even unknowingly. Help me to look inside myself.”

Thus, my brother becomes for me an instrument of truth.

It may happen, however, that the other person is not willing to accept direct confrontation with me. In this case it is good to put myself directly before Jesus and ask him, with an open heart, to let me understand if and where I have made mistakes: “What could I have avoided? How could I have acted?” Then if my heart does not reproach me for anything, I ask God for the gift of acceptance and the gift of offering.

This is the third step: “Lord, I accept this suffering I am experiencing and offer it to you; let me be with you an instrument of salvation for the world.” Thus, suffering persecution is not in vain.

Salvifici Doloris n. 18: “Human suffering reached its culmination in the Passion of Christ, and at the same time it entered a completely new dimension and a new order: it was linked to love… that love which creates good by drawing it out even from evil, (because Jesus is risen!) drawing it out by means of suffering, just as the supreme good of the redemption of the world was drawn from the Cross of Christ.. which became a spring from which it flows rivers of living water.”

Just as Jesus who through His death and Resurrection saved the world, I may offer – united with Him – my suffering for someone, so that I bring a resurrection in that person’s life. Here is an example that St. Theresa gives us:

One day a sister, seeing the great suffering that walking caused her, asked why she was doing all that toil causing more suffering than relief. She replied, “You know sister, I am thinking that perhaps, at this very moment, a missionary in a distant country is feeling very tired and discouraged; therefore, I offer my labors for him.”

Concrete Resolution:

I try to think of all those times I have felt persecuted in my life: I think back to the people who have caused me suffering and ask Jesus to show me which of these three steps I am called to live in this coming month.

This month’s meditation is by Sr. Simona Panico, AVI.

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