I know a few married couples who have a policy of not going to sleep at night hateful and angry with their spouse. I admire this approach to life and the commit they make to resolve things; I also know how “human” it can be to hold resentments and to be angry for a prolonged period of time with other people. The Gospel we hear tomorrow reminds us that one of the greatest challenges we’ve been given as Christians is to forgive others and to love our enemy. Anger, resentment and an unforgiving heart are the chief obstacle to a deepening of love. There will never be widespread evangelization and the spreading of the faith of Jesus Christ where love is stymied. As I work with men discerning vocations to priesthood I can also tell you that unresolved anger, a lack of forgiveness and ability to deal with past issues is the greatest roadblock to good vocational discernment.
Letting go of things is of the essence in discernment of many things but most especially to discernment of one’s vocation. Discernment of past hurts helps to free a person from the things that hold them back from a poor or distorted self-image. One of the things many struggle with is self-hate. Although this may seem not to be what Jesus is referring to in today’s Gospel when He says “leave your gifts at the altar and go forgive…” I believe it’s an important part of the Gospel. The priest who suffers from self-hate will have a hard time not being hard on others and in the end there will be more who don’t measure up to the image he (we) create in our own minds of the ideal. For those of you (us) who struggle with self-anger, think about it. Isn’t it true? Don’t we often displace our anger on others or other things? I say us, because I know that when I am very tired, this is when I’m most prone to irrational thinking and when I am, I beat up on myself, and then most likely I get angry or beat up (verbally) on others too.
So we must work hard to radically forgive. When I use that word, I mean forgiving people in the normal way is not enough. We need to dig down deep within our own souls and probe and reflect, we need to find the places and people whom we don’t forgive and start there, and continue day by day, forgiving every step of the way, practicing “letting go” until it is seemingly a natural part of our daily lives. At the same time, we need to reflect on how God will fill us right there, what we empty from our hearts in whom we forgive, the Lord our God will fill with love, love which we must give to each other and everyone we meet. May God bless you.