Forgiveness and the benefit of the doubt – these are not the easiest ways of proceeding. As members of an Ignatian community, we are called to a challenging and transformational mission. One exemplified in the invitation at Pentecost.
In John 20, we hear about the fearful disciples who retreated to the upper room. Jesus comes to them, and with the Holy Spirit, sets them free through his invitation.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
In the opening of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius writes on the presupposition of good will.
In order that both he who is giving the Spiritual Exercises, and he who is receiving them, may more help and benefit themselves, let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor's proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring him to mean it well, and save himself.
Today we are tempted to condemn, ostracize and exclude. Jesus and Ignatius both knew this was a futile way to proceed. With forgiveness as the first invitation to the disciples, we are challenged, just as they were, to live this mission, illustrated in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi,
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
Ignatius, in the Principle and Foundation from the Exercises, reminds us –
Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls.
The path to salvation begins with forgiveness. It is difficult, but clear and requires us to embrace the life breathed into us by God (Genesis 2:7) and the invitation breathed on us by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)