James is a very good writer who has a gift of writing about life and seeing God and grace at work in all situations. I would like to share one of his writings with you. I knew James’s mother and loved her. She was intelligent, insightful, with a good sense of humor. His family is close knit and it shows in how they loved and took care of their mother. I hope you like the story that he has given me permission to share.
The Noon Day Devil
During the last year or so of my mom’s life she would have almost daily
episodes of what I think is called the noon day devil. Come the
afternoon, her personality would change. She would become disoriented,
delusional and more than a bit cantankerous. After a few hours, she
would emerge from it and have no recollection at all of what happened to her.
Life went on as normal, until the next time the so called devil arrived on the scene.
One afternoon I was sitting with her and she asked who I was. She was
totally blind at that point. I told her that I was Jeff. She said no
you are not. You are Robert. Robert is my younger brother and I
expected him to arrive later that afternoon. I tried again to make her
understand that I was in fact Jeff. She said why are you fooling around with me?
You are Robert, this discussion is closed, now get me out of here.
She thought she was in the hospital. And so she continued. Robert,
if you do not get me out of here and back to the decency of my home, I will never forgive
you. And I mean never. And that goes for tomorrow, too. She paused for a moment and
then said and that goes for the day after that, too. I said okay.
Robert arrived, strode into the room, kissed mom and mom said it’s so
good that you came, Jeff. I looked at Robert and told him that he was
in some very, very deep trouble.
The episode passed, mom was back to herself, comfortable in her
surroundings, and life resumed its normal course. All was of course
forgiven and forgotten. Well, maybe not all. Robert still grunts every now
and then over taking the fall from grace. We all understood that mom was not well
and took all that she said in stride. But her struggles make me wonder about the
noon day devils that arrive in our own lives, throwing us into delusional states
of blindness, confusion, disorientation. We, too, then resort to cutting
offending others out of our lives, keeping them at a distance by banishing
them to the realms of the unforgiven.
In this gospel, the official is forgiven everything by his master. And
because he refuses to act in kind toward a fellow servant, his life ends up
a bigger mess than he was in before. He was given everything and in not taking
to heart the lesson of that gift of forgiveness, he loses everything.
Forgiveness involves a reach beyond our ways of handling our failures
to the way God handles them. The reach can be a long one, for the ways
of God may move us a good distance from our comfort zones, those places
where we stew in our resentments and grudges. But those get very heavy
after a while. And the only way to lighten the load is to let them go
and forgive each other from our hearts. And it might be one way to hold at
bay the noon day devil when he wants to settle in for a visit. I do not think
he is the kind of creature who feels at ease with those graced with the gift
of light-hardheartedness, those people who bless this world with forgiveness.
James Stephen Behrens, O.C.S.O.
Monastery of the Holy Spirit