September 17, 2017 – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Let Go of Wrath & Anger

Not too long ago, some pretty crummy stuff happened in my life and I was deeply hurt by people I trusted and loved. Feeling betrayed, lost, lonely, and isolated in my anger, I grew very bitter and hateful about the entire situation. I couldn’t discuss it without becoming nasty. I couldn’t think about it without becoming overly anxious. I couldn’t seem to move past it at all, and knowing that my hurt and anger was really eating me alive and ruining my spirituality, I sought guidance from my pastor. He gave me two small pieces of advice to overcome my anger and frustration. Firstly, whenever I began to think poorly about the people who had hurt me, I instead needed to simply pray these words: “Jesus, help me.” And then, I had to do something even more difficult. I needed to also say, “Jesus, help them.” This kind and holy priest reminded me of a critically important, but always challenging, reality of our faith: we are called to forgive those who have hurt us and to pray for our enemies, even when we don’t feel like it or want to.

Today’s readings very clearly make the exact same point: get over yourself, don’t be consumed by anger and hatred, and forgive those who have hurt or wronged you. The first reading, from the Book of Sirach, bluntly says, “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” If you hold a grudge, you are sinning and clinging to your sin. The Psalm highlights how the Lord is kind and merciful, and how even when we don’t deserve it, he pardons our iniquities. The second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans illustrates that Jesus Christ came not for himself or his own success, but to give us something: forgiveness. Jesus forgives our sins, which we don’t necessarily deserve. The Gospel drives this point home when Jesus tells Peter and the Apostles to forgiven seventy-seven times and then tells the parable of the merciful king and the selfish servant. This kind and just King easily and quickly forgives his servant’s debt. The servant does not return this kindness to someone else, instead holding on to a grudge and refusing to forgive another, even though he was forgiven.

This parable should make us a bit uncomfortable, because it illustrates what happens in our lives: we are forgiven by the Lord, but sometimes we don’t extend this same courtesy to others. We hold onto our hurt and anger rather than asking Jesus to give us the strength to do what he does – forgive others wholeheartedly and without fail. This week, take stock of your life and figure out what you may be holding onto and where you can forgive others. Think about the fact that you have been forgiven, without reservation, and express gratitude for that, and then give it to others in your life.

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