This weekend's Liturgy opens innocently enough. We will / have prayed, “Almighty Father, faith in your word is the way to wisdom, and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in truth. Open our eyes to your deeds, our ears to your call, so that our every act may increase our sharing in the life you have offered to us".
This "word" we have to have faith in has the following to say us, "You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.....Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your countryman. You shall love your neighbor as yourself". These words are from that first reading. We go on to the Gospel where these words are addressed to us by Jesus, "My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors".
This is real heavy stuff, and so difficult to do. We have to face what we would like to do, and contrast that to what we are commanded to do as followers of Christ. There will be, for me there usually is, between what my ego wants and what the true self desires for me. There is that instant satisfaction, gratification that comes with putting someone in “their rightful place". Unfortunately that does not last too long. Our conscience starts to act up, and we get to be in an uncomfortable place. We have to face this challenge over and over again. Being Irish, this is one of the curses of belonging to our wonder-full race. I am sure you have heard of Irish Alzheimers , "You forget everything, but the grudges". At least we are honest about it. Honesty is the first step towards a healthy spirituality.
Instead of carrying the grudges, Jesus commands us to pray for that certain individual. How can I do this, you may ask, and not choke on my words? Well since it is the command of Jesus, why not use the words He has given us to pray? Here is a practice that DOES work. It has been road tested by so many people. For two weeks, yes 14 days, say one “Our Father” for that person. When you start you can even say, “I really do not mean this, but I am saying it anyway”. See what happens. God's ways are not our ways. As we go along they become more and more mysterious. This makes the command of Jesus a little easier to obey.
This life we are asked to pray for, and is offered to you and I, is a participation in the life of our God's only begotten, beloved Son. A life that described for us in the Gospels. I always recommend the Gospel of Mark for this purpose. There we meet a very human Jesus, and a still more human apostles, and disciples. When we struggle, as we always will, with following The Lord, they await us in the Gospel of Mark a great source of encouragement. Up to the very last moments, up to that last moment before The Risen Christ was to ascend, they still did not get it. In that state, Jesus Christ left His "not together" apostles, and returned to the Father. He left The Holy Spirit a great of work to be done. With the descent of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, the challenge was met, and so it continues to the present day, to you and I. The ongoing formation of the baptized into the Body of Christ is a process we hinder, or facilitate with our God given freedom. What power the love of our God has bestowed, and blessed us with. The life that is offered is a life that Jesus Christ will live out His suffering, death, resurrection, ascension. It is the life God has chosen from a life of eternity to be the place where a New Spirit will descend to, and infuse Itself into. So, that the risen life of Christ may have a contemporary expression. This is the dignity we are called to. Great blessings always come at a great price, e.g. our freedom. Are we ready to accept this hidden challenge in this weekend's liturgy. Take heart we do not take on this challenge alone, we have this GUARANTEE from our God, “Whatever challenge you are asked to face, it is a challenge that both you, and I can meet, and accomplish”. You will never be tested beyond your strength. I will not allow that to happen. If you have any doubts about this, read what happened to Job, “So, when a challenge comes your way, it only comes at a time and in the place where you and I can meet it”.
So many of us have a great difficulty in letting the past go. We hold a grudge against ourselves and it is called resentment. This weekend's Psalm is wonderful. It is Psalm 103, and it has these so consoling words,"As far as the East is from the West, so far does He place our sins behind us". Hope this will encourage you to not read, but pray the whole psalm.