Grace to you!
Standing by a car service center, I observed how the mechanic revamped an old, dead car.
The car's engine oil was coagulated. Hardly could the key enter the ignition when inserted. When it finally did, the loud, squeaky sound reminded one of the sixties' junkyard collections. That car was a piece of junk.
I watched the mechanic do the magic. He touched here and there, lubricated the wheels, and changed the engine oil and oil filter. Allowing it to run and sit for a while, he did the cleaning again and again. In a few days, the once dead car had come alive, inviting one for a ride.
Strangely, my mind flashed to the issue of unforgiveness. I thought of the coagulated oil and felt a similarity with a heart that is bitter. A heart wherein bitter anger—the kind which ends in wrath (fury and vengefulness)—is allowed to settle in is like that car when grounded.
An imperfect analogy, one would say. Nevertheless, it is a metaphor that could help us understand what the biblical book, Sirach 27:30, calls wrath. Perhaps, we could have a graphic picture of what wrath (bitter anger) can do in our hearts.
Spiritually speaking, bitter anger coagulates like old oil, tightening our veins and squeezing our blood arteries, so we feel as if we are suffocating. Spiritual spasm due to wrath is real. No one who is bitterly angry and furious could have a deep, uninterrupted sleep and rise feeling fresh and well-rested. Emotions of bitter anger stand in the way of refreshing rest and peace of soul. Psychologists know this experience and do all they can to help individuals heal from hurting past. Those of us in the ministry of spiritual direction understand how unforgiveness can trap people and hamper their inner peace.
At the root of unforgiveness is bitter anger. A person who keeps the memory of past hurts is like one who looks in the mirror and sees the ugly face of pain and unhealed, hurting memory. All of us have our past and hurting experiences. But it is when they glare at us in the mirror that they hurt terribly. Or should I say: When we allow them to take the front seat of our perception of things and ourselves, they seem unhealable. They overwhelm us. We hurt, bearing them again and again and again.
Have you ever taken a photo of yourself when you were furious or suffering from the pains of unforgiveness? What you would see will be an unpleasant face. It's an indication of what goes on the inside, which isn't healthy at all.
Engaging people in a discussion, one could easily perceive a free heart and a coagulated heart. A free heart is positive, joyous, with delightful freshness despite a past hurt. An unforgiving heart is stuck in the past. The past follows the person like an overpowering shadow.
The Lord Jesus, pointing to the harm of unforgiveness, tells us a story of someone who refuses to forgive another. He was quick to forget that he owed somebody else and was forgiven so much. I encourage us to read that parable (Matthew 18:25-31) and reflect on it deeply.
It follows that when we free others, we "ourselves" are free indeed. When we refuse to forgive others, we are stuck, literally stuck in the past. Moving forward would be a fantasy.
There is a lyric from an African, Nigerian musician (Ase) I find related to this. Referring to jailers in her award-winning song, Jailer, she sang: "I'm in chains. You're in chains too." Meaning: Though a prisoner is in chains, the person who guards the prisoner is equally not free. He has to watch over the prisoner so he or she won't escape.
There are two victims of any wrath—the culprit and the hurting. Both suffer. One is guilty; the other is innocent. Yet the innocent suffers. Hence, it's better not to cause others harm. It is more blessed to forgive. Why carry a double pain when you are already hurt. If not for any other reason, heal yourself from the hurt of unforgiveness since you are the one carrying the burden, not the culprit who caused it. Break the chains of that hurt, and unforgiveness. Lay them down to the Lord. Grace is your power to heal.
May God give us the grace to be free from wrath and unforgiveness and be healed from them. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[24th Sunday Ordinary Time A: Sir 27:20-28:7; Rm 14:7-9; Mt 18:21-35]
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Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.