Meditations for Layfolks - False Accusations

To be falsely accused is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Perhaps the hardest thing of all to bear without complaint is just that final degradation under which our Master died. Other pains and penalties can be borne with lips closed: the sufferings that ill-health brings us, and the financial anxieties of life, do not touch us so nearly; they are so common and so passing that we can afford to take them easily as part of human destiny. When we have contrasted what we have to bear with what so many others are suffering, we feel the littleness of our character and its timidity, and we are ashamed. Even when we contrast what we have to bear with what we deserve, we find the immense forgiveness extended to us: it is really so small a pain that mere human courage, apart from all supernatural motives, would bid us be silent and bear our pain like men. Even the disappointment in friends, in ourselves, can be looked upon as something to be carried as our Master carried His Cross. Human nature is erring; and love itself gives us the courage to persevere in loving those who have renounced our love. But a false accusation brings our pain too near; it is too humbling! Its hardness can only be tempered and made less repugnant by the thought of the nearness that it brings us to the life of our Divine Model. For false accusations patiently borne are the very essence of the Sacred Passion; and by our following of our Master we are taught by love to rejoice. They are the necessary trials of all those who make atonement for the sins of others, else had no Redeemer come and Divine suffering not been accepted for the world.

But the reverse seems also to be true - namely, that those who suffer false accusations in patience are themselves also redeemers and make atonement for the sins of others. I, by accepting in silence the false accusation made against me by another, can bear that other's sin. It is all part of that deep mystery of the mystic Body of Christ. Somehow or other this wonderful doctrine which we profess in the Creed under the title of the Communion of Saints not merely teaches us the high dignity of our humanity but enables us to achieve that self-sacrifice which is the chief mark of the character of Christ. Now in this instance we have to realize that we are all members of that Mystic Body, and our entrance into it by Baptism means that the ransom of the Precious Blood has been applied to our souls. Yet, says Saint Paul, it is possible for us to fill up what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ. This cannot allude to the initial redemption which cannot be completed, for the twofold reason that none other is needed and none other could avail; it must seem that after some fashion we can help one another and apply to each other the merits that we have individually acquired. After all, there is one desire which follows upon love - the desire by our own suffering to lessen the sufferings of another. Because, then, we are all Christians, bound together unto love, we must offer for each other the torments we undergo. So that we can make it into a principle of spiritual experience that not merely must all redeemers be falsely accused, but all falsely accused can be redeemers.

The spirit, then, of Christ must dominate my own, and the attitude I must hold to life is this: that all those who persecute me are those precisely for whom I must offer the patience of my forbearance. It would have a very evil and unchristian effect upon me if I got it into my head that everyone was persecuting me. I should grow even more priggish than I am; but when I do find others who make my life difficult, I must dedicate to their service the difficulties I undergo, even as my Master died for those who accused Him of evil which they knew could not be laid to His charge. How far, then, does this silence under false accusations come into my life? It is obvious that some imputed faults I have a right and an obligation to deny; it is freely declared by many saints that the accusation of disbelief, heresy, etc., must never be submitted to in silence; and we can note shortly that we must refuse to acknowledge all such accusations when God's honour or our own, or our neighbour's good, require it. But there are many occasions when I can easily be silent, yet I am not. I make haste to protest, for fear of losing my reputation; I am quick to resent any such thing. Yet really I ought to prefer that people should accuse me falsely than truly; for it is written: "Blessed are ye when men revile you and speak evil of you, untruly, for My name's sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in Heaven." Saint Peter Martyr, complaining to his Master of such false accusations, demanded: "Lord, what have I done?" and the answer that came from the Crucifix taught the lesson of Christ: "And I, Peter, what have I done?"

- text taken from Meditations for Layfolk by Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.