Grace to you!
Standing by a car service center, I observed how an old, dead car was revamped.
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 junkyard collections of the sixties. That car was a piece of junk.
I watched the mechanic do the magic. He touched here and there. He lubricated the wheels and changed the engine oil and oil filter. He allowed 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.
A heart wherein bitter anger—the kind which ends in wrath (fury and vengefulness)—is allowed to settle in is like that car. A poor analogy one would say. Nevertheless, an imagery that could help us understand what Sirach 27:30 calls wrath can do in our hearts.
Spiritually speaking, bitter anger coagulates like old oil; tightening our veins and squeezing our blood arteries in such a way we feel like 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 sleep and peace of soul.
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 hurt.
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 unpleasant face. It’s an indication of what goes on 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, with delightful freshness despite a past hurt. The 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 owes 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 joke.
There is a lyric from an African musician I find related to this. Referring to jailers, she sang: “I'm in chains. You’re in chains too."
This means, 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.
Thus, there are two victims of any wrath—the culprit and the hurting. Both suffer. Hence, it’s better not to cause others harm. It is more blessed to forgive.
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]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.