We Americans love movies, and Hollywood does its best to put a lot of different types of movies in front of us to spend our money on. Comedies, mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, action and the like. But we seem to really love movies where someone is wronged in a horrible way and a hero rises up to seek revenge on their behalf. “Those people are going to pay for what they did!” The hero tracks down the bad guys while feeding on the anger and hatred that boils up from this shameful act. He shows no mercy, he has no forgiveness and he wipe’s them out. Happy ending all around, right?
Thankfully that is just in the movies, and we don’t need to exact revenge like the movie heroes, but do we carry hatred, nonetheless? Do we hold a grudge and grind on it for a long time? Does a wrong we have endured fester in us and, gulp, become hate?
Unfortunately, if we really look in the mirror, the answer may be… yes. We may not have had a spouse or child kidnapped like in the movies, but we have all been wronged in our lives and sometimes that wrong is very hurtful. Maybe we were powerless against it and that makes us mad, helpless, and angry… and hate can seep in.
I wish I could say it’s never happened to me… but it has. When it did, I carried that hate and that hurt for a long time. In one circumstance, I still had to be around that person all the time, so I was reminded of it all the time. Nothing quite like having that wound re-opened again and again.
Not good, not healthy… didn’t bring out anything good in me.
So, what did I do? Did I pray for my enemy like Jesus said to do in the readings today? Nope, I instead complained about it and went out of my way to not help that person in any way. Yes, it was petty, but I kept telling myself they deserved it. I was not in a good place…
But I began to realize that something had to change, this logjam of emotions had to be freed. I finally admitted to myself that I was powerless, and this wasn’t going to get better by me holding it all in and letting it fester. So, I changed how I prayed about this. Instead of praying for this feeling to go away, I admitted that I hated this person and I was powerless without God’s help to make it better.
I began to pray for that person and at first, it was not very genuine, but it was a start. It wasn’t until I went to Confession and admitted it honestly and out loud, “I hate that person” that the logjam finally began to break up. My prayer for them became more genuine and I prayed for them daily… and the burden began to lift. A weight began to be removed from my heart.
It was probably 4 to 5 months later when I looked back and realized that everything had in fact changed. My relationship with that person was vastly improved and my heart was free of that hate. God not only cured my wound, He fixed the relationship and I was a better person for it.
That my friends, is what the readings today are all about!
In the first reading from Leviticus, God tells Moses, “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart… and cherish no grudge against any of your people.” OK, that is pretty clear.
Saint Paul picks up on this theme in the second reading with some words of wisdom about who the object of our hatred really is… and it’s not just some random person! He says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” He goes on to say, “For the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” Ok, so if we are all temples of God, which is true, the object of our hatred is also a temple of God and I am pretty sure we are not supposed to hate God right?
OK, so what does Jesus say about this?
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” Well that also is pretty clear isn’t it? He is telling us exactly what He wants us to do in this circumstance!
My final point here. Jesus has forgiven us how many times in our lives? If you’re like me, it’s quite a lot. He forgives us, He never holds a grudge and once we have sought and received His forgiveness, He never thinks of that wrong again. It is over, forgiven, and he has moved on.
If He has done this for us, shouldn’t we do the same?
So, if we want to be rid of that grudge or that hate with its burden, we can. But it is up to us, we need to pray for those who persecute us, and we need to confess to Jesus that we are carrying this, and we don’t want to carry it any longer.
That is the road to forgiveness. That is the road to freedom. That is the road to peace and to our salvation.
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Thanks, Jim. Our pastor, Fr. Al (St. Blaise – Bellingham) got up sick this morning. Thus, Deacon Richie did a Communion service. It wasn’t his turn to do the homily so we had none. That all having been said, your homily became the homily for me today. It really hit home. There are still several things for me to pray about and let go of, even at 80! God bless you and your family. I miss you all.NormaSent from my Galaxy