Nurture a Healthy Heart

    A certain married couple had many sharp disagreements. Yet somehow the wife always stayed calm and collected. One day her husband commented on his wife's restraint. "When I get mad at you," he said, "you never fight back. How do you control your anger?" The wife said: "I work it off by cleaning the toilet." The husband asked: "How does that help?" She said: "I use your toothbrush!"

    Our liturgical readings for this 24th Sunday concern forgiving and being reconciled with those who wound us. All three readings today remind us of the path to forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation and challenge us to walk this path with Jesus, the only Way to Life. Peter thought forgiving a wrong doer seven times was already too much. But Jesus shocks Peter when he demands forgiving seventy-times. Who could possibly do that? But that's the point. Forgiveness isn't something that is tracked on a scoreboard, with a certain number of boxes to fill in. The goal of forgiveness is reconciliation. Until that is reached we need to keep trying.

    Forgiveness begins in the heart. Unfortunately, so do wrath and anger, which the book of Sirach (first reading) urges us to avoid. When we are wronged, especially when it hurts, especially when it has long -term consequences or even changes our lives completely, it is difficult for the heart to make a complete turn from anger to mercy. But as doctors will say, we need to nurture a healthy heart. When we hug tightly to wrath and anger, allowing them to fester into resentment or bitterness, we are unconsciously choosing to have an unhealthy heart.

    John Huffman once said, "The world's most miserable person is one who won't forgive." The truth is that nurtured resentment mostly hurts the one who nurtures it. Forgiveness allows us to reconcile with the consequences of the action that hurt us as well as with the cause of that hurt. It allows us to heal the broken relationship with that person. Today, God's word would take us "below decks" to look inside ourselves concerning the whole matter of forgiveness. When Jesus commands us to love our enemies, he gives us the grace we will need to forgive them.

    Forgiveness is an art of letting go. It is letting go of the past, looking forward to the future, and enjoying the emotional freedom you deserve. Forgiveness multiplies when freely given to the offender. Whether we like it or not, something good may come out from the experience and will probably change the person for the better. And that is the good news that the Gospel offers us this Sunday.

    When was the last time it was very difficult to forgive? If you did forgive, how did you feel?

In the Service of the Lord,
  Fr Thainese Alphonse


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