A few days ago I was feeling very bad. A series of things that did not go my way had me feeling overwhelmed and filled with fear of the future. I was afraid that I would have to make some changes in my life that I didn’t want to make. I even wanted to die because I saw myself in a dead-end street. My first reaction, like that of many people, was to blame someone. I had to blame someone or something for all of the emotional pain that I was feeling. And there were many who were at fault, including all those who ha offended me or those whom I considered to be my persecutors. I even blamed myself for having gotten into disagreeable and vulnerable situations. In the midst of all this, I decided to go to a chapel so I could talk to Jesus.
I stared at the crucifix and suddenly I realized that it represented a very bad day in the life of Jesus. It was the day that He handed himself over to those who were persecuting Him and to those who wanted to put him to death. Seeing His body nailed and hanging from the cross, I asked Him: “Who do you blame for this?” His response surprised me: “No one,” he said. “Even with my last breath I asked the Father not to blame my tormentors because they did not know what they were doing.” In fact, Jesus took responsibility for his own death. The tradition coming from St. Paul was that the blame for the death of Jesus lay with our sins, that is, my sins and that He had to atone for them in order to gain salvation for us. Nevertheless, Jesus Himself never alluded to that. In all of His teaching, in the parables, in the way that He treated the people that He encountered, in His healings, His motivation was always mercy. When the Prodigal Son tried to ark forgiveness from his father, the father paid no attention to him because he had already forgiven him and his love for his son had healed the wounds. Jesus asked nothing from the woman caught in adultery other than not repeating the same sin. He didn’t judge her; He didn’t ask her to repent. His total acceptance of her was all that He offered. In the same way, Jesus does not blame us for His death. He accepts us as we are and He wraps s in His mercy.
But my lesson did not end there. If I am going to follow Jesus Christ, do not I also have to stop blaming others for the bad things that happen to me? If God is sharing so much mercy freely with me, shouldn’t I share it in the same way with those who offend or hurt me? Of course I should! I ought to stop weighing down with responsibility the shoulders of someone, or my own, along with the anger, frustration and pain that results from casting blame. Often the bad things are inevitable and have to do only with something that happens to us or a circumstance in our lives. I can take the responsibility of accepting and resolving the problem without sinking into the torture of culpability. It is worth even less to place that blame on someone who doesn’t even know that they have done something bad. That is what Jesus recognized looking down from the Cross: “They do not know what they are doing.”
Nevertheless, it seems to me that we are living in a culture of blame. Politicians, from Putin to Trump, from Europe to Central America, want to place blame for their failures. It might be a stolen election, sabotage, climate change, an “enemy”, Satan. They are never going to say simply “I failed”. Full stop. Looking for reasons is not blaming. The reason for unemployment can be a bad economic period and not the fault of an employer who is also suffering. The reason for a pain in my leg can be a fall and not the fault of the doctor who treated me. I make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes they affect other people and sometimes only ourselves. All of mine have implications for my relationship with God. There is a big difference between my trying to escape or flee from responsibility and the consequences, blaming another person (Mommy, my sister did it, not me.”) and recognizing my mistake, my sin, while accepting the mercy of God (or some other person0 which covers me without the need of my asking for it. I can be like the adulterous woman, saved from condemnation and death.
Refraining from blaming, and at the same time refraining from accepting the blame of others, is very liberating. All of a sudden I am free, saved from the executioner who is myself, basking in mercy and love. I have the most important thing, the keys to my own liberation. If I can look at other people without blaming them for something bad in my life, I also free them although they may never know it. I open myself to feeling and sharing love, grace and the possibility of living together. We know people who never pardon, never forgive and who live with bitterness, alone and afraid. They never allow themselves to experience the joy of freedom, of the Resurrection. Is it hard to live without casting blame? Ask Jesus.
[Image by jcomp from Freepik]