WITHOUT BATTING AN EYE

Once there was a general who was infamous for his viciousness.  He was brutal, without mercy.  He went to attack a very small village that lay in the path of his army.  Everyone in the village, knowing of the general’s reputation, ran away – everyone except one man  When the general entered the village, he found this one man sitting calmly under a tree.  So the general went to the man and said, “Do you know who I am, and do you know what I am capable of?  I can run my sword right through you without batting an eye!”  And the man said, “I know.”  Looking at the general, he continued, “But do you know who I am and what I am capable of?  I’ll let you do it … without batting an eye.”

Source | Paul Coutinho SJ, How Big is Your God
Loyola Press (November 1, 2010) page 31

PONDER AND CONSIDER

This is the difference between practicing religion and developing a living relationship with the Divine. How do we respond when we are attacked?  If our response is still an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth we’re not much better than the general.

But if our response is one of peace and reconciliation, then we offer a better alternative, and that response  can be disarming and a catalyst for change.

How?  If you want to change start by changing a thought, just one thought:  everything begins with a thought.  Change your thinking and you will be a changed person.  The thought will be expressed in your words, will affect your feelings, and will guide your behaviour.  And the words, feelings, and behaviours you send out into the world will affect and slowly transform the world around you.

  • Can you change just one thought?
  • Can you know who you are in your mind, in your consciousness, enough to think peace, act in peace, be peace … without batting an eye?

PACO, ALL IS FORGIVEN

No one could really say why he ran away. Or perhaps he didn’t, but was kicked out of his home by his father for something foolish that he said or did. Either way, Paco found himself wandering the streets of Madrid, Spain with hopes of entering into a profession that would most likely get him killed – bullfighting. Those who train under a mentor have a good chance of surviving this profession, but Paco’s memory of his mistakes and guilt over what happened blindly drove him to this one way street to suicide.

But that was the last thing his father wanted, which is why he tried something desperate which he desperately hoped would work. There was little to no chance that he would be able to find Paco by wandering the streets of Madrid , so instead he put an advertisement in the local newspaper El Liberal. The advertisement read,

“Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven! Love, Papa.”

Paco is such a common name in Spain that when the father went to the Hotel Montana the next day at noon there were 800 young men named Paco waiting for their fathers…and waiting for the forgiveness they never thought was possible!

From the short story The Capital of the World by Ernest Hemingway
in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

PONDER

  • Imagine your name is Paco too. Would you muster enough courage and show up at the Hotel Montana?
  • What strikes you about this story? How have you offered forgiveness to others? How has forgiveness been offered to you?
  • What does this story say about humanity’s desire for forgiveness?
  • How is forgiveness understood in this story? Is it an act of grace—or something else?
  • Do you think Paco’s father had forgotten about Paco’s misdeeds? Does it even matter?