The baggage of grudge, hatred and revenge we carry against others are enough material for building walls around us that make for a perfect prison cell. The joy of life is stifled and our quest for peace only eludes us until we break- free by forgiving and overlooking the hurts people may have caused us. To hurt and be hurt is so much part of our human frailty, varying in degrees from person to person.
Saint Jerome (419 AD), the learned scripture scholar was known for his hot tempers. He was not in talking terms with his aunt for a very long time but decided to hold no grudge or coldness towards her. He dashed-off a letter to her, begging forgiveness. Quoting the first letter of St. John (3:15), he wrote “Since hate often leads to murder, the one who hates, even if he hasn’t killed his victim yet, has murder in his heart”. He reconciled with her with the beautiful words “Soon we’ll stand before His judgment seat, either to receive the reward of peace restored, or to pay the price of harmony broken.”
Hot-tempered Edwin Stanton who served as ‘Secretary of War’ under Abraham Lincoln once barged into Lincoln’s office fuming with age against an army general. “write-him-off” Lincoln advised. Warmed by the President’s support, he began writing a letter to the general with vehement and hate-filled language. Lincoln appreciated Stanton saying “You really gave the general a piece of your mind.” When Stanton rose to leave, Lincoln said “Now instead o mailing the letter, drop in on the stove’s flame. That is what I do when I have written a letter when I am angry. You had a good time writing that letter. Now, write another letter and put it on the flame”. Stanton’s anger cooled down.
Our refusal to shed anger and grudge can at times be like a boy who had a terrible fight with his brother and never spoke to or ate with him for several weeks. When the mother’s efforts to reconcile the failed, she asked the priest to counsel them. Quoting from the Bible, the Priest said “Do not let the sun go down with anger still in your heart”(Ephesians 4:26). The boy blurted out in reply “But Padre, that s my problem. Let me know how to keep the sun from going down”.
Our acts of worship and ritual sacrifices if not preceded by acts of forgiveness are farce and an abomination to God. Jesus spoke of genuine worship “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift (Mathew 5:23-24).
The Lord’s prayer’ hinges on emulating God’s limitless forgiveness upon us “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. You are forgiven. So forgive.
Fr. Adolf Washington