Arts and Culture

Hold Onto God, Not Grudges

10th in a series

DURING HIS PONTIFICATE, Pope Francis has made some wonderful statements about mercy.

For example, he has said that God’s name is mercy. If we often read or hear statements like that we may appreciate more deeply how much we are loved by God. We will never completely comprehend God’s love for us, but we can grow in our awareness that the Spirit is always surrounding us with love. I am grateful to the Holy Father for the many times he has reminded us how much God loves us. I think it is impossible to hear too often that God loves us. We should want that profound truth to permeate our consciousness and our conscience so that it influences every important decision we make.

In his treatment of the Beatitudes in his apostolic exhortation, “Rejoice and Be Glad,” the Holy Father offers wonderful insights. I think I have profited from reading his reflections on them. This is probably due to the deep meaning of the Beatitudes and to Pope Francis’ faith and wisdom.

Concerning mercy, Pope Francis writes the following:

“Mercy has two aspects. It involves giving, helping and serving others, but it also includes forgiveness and understanding….

“Giving and understanding means reproducing in our lives some small measure of God’s perfection, which gives and forgives superabundantly. For this reason, in the Gospel of Luke we do not hear the words, ‘Be perfect’ (Mt. 5:48) but rather, ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you’ (6:36-38). Luke then adds something not to be overlooked: ‘The measure you give will be the measure you get back’ (6:38). The yardstick we use for understanding and forgiving others will measure the forgiveness we receive. The yardstick we use for giving will measure what we receive. We should never forget this. …

“Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness.”

I think that one of the most profound insights that Pope Francis often offers to us is that all of us are related to one another. An  example is the Sunday Eucharist. How I celebrate Mass can greatly influence those in the congregation, and how members of the congregation participate can greatly influence me.

We are constantly relating to one another and our relationship with God can influence others to whom we relate and the relationship that others have with God can influence us. We can influence members of our family. I hope I influence students at St. John’s University. The priests with whom I live can influence me.

I have come to believe that my relationship with Jesus is never simply me and Jesus. Does not the doctrine of the Communion of Saints mean this? We never approach God totally alone. We are always in a community and that community extends beyond the grave.

For me to hold a grudge is to stunt my development as a person. Refusal to forgive goes against what it means to be a person. It seems to me that refusal to forgive almost seems like blasphemy. I have heard people make statements such as, “God will forgive that person, but I never will.”

In effect, anyone who says something like that is saying that he or she is better than God. In fact, the person who refuses to forgive is playing God. This may be why refusal to forgive is such a serious offense against God. Refusal to forgive is putting an obstacle against the Holy Spirit’s efforts to lead us on a path to holiness.

Many years ago, a man was so angry at me that he refused to speak to me. But at a Sunday Eucharist, he came to receive the Eucharist from me. I suspect that he did not realize that one action contradicted the other. Indirectly, he helped me to see that receiving the Eucharist makes demands on us.

When a person says “Amen” to the words, “The Body of Christ,” that means not only that the recipient believes in Christ’s presence, but also that the person intends to follow Christ’s example. Christ forgave even those who killed Him.

Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica. He presents two 15-minute talks from his 24-part lecture series on the Catholic Novel, every Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NET-TV.

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