Revenge, we think, is satisfying. We cannot help crawling towards it like an ant towards sugar. When we are wronged and life suddenly changes for the worse, we are understandably angry. Very few can forgive immediately. We want to remain angry perhaps to justify ourselves. Allowing anger to fester is like ignoring the corrosive effect of rust. It takes its time to destroy you.
“Mere creature of flesh, he cherishes resentment” (Today’s First Reading)
A festering anger breeds resentment. We cherish resentment because it is somewhat sweet, like a baby given a sweet before an injection. Like a baby we can become dependent on a pacifier which resentment can be. Unable to let go and unable to find satisfaction, we crawl deeper towards revenge. For most of us, revenge will remain a fixation of the mind. But that is enough to harm our spiritual life.
Revenge is like running but no more than running on the spot. When opportunities arise, we take slingshots at the reputations of those who hurt us. We devilishly desire to climb out of the hole they threw us into and do better than them. We fantasize one day meeting them to have one last kick at their groin before we can say we forgive. Revenge is like running on the spot, desperation leading to fury, our feet digging the ground below sinking ourselves into bitterness.
“Alive or dead, we belong to the Lord” (Second Reading)
Christ has come to lead us into the fullness of life. This fullness is satisfying. It gives us peace amidst any turmoil. Fullness of life erases all traces of resentment, deflates the fantasy of revenge, and heal the corrosive hurt of bitterness. Fullness of life can only be attained when we start to forgive. Forgiveness has the immediate pain of an injection, and we will cry like a baby trying to reject it.
“Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.” (Gospel)
Most times, we don’t want to forgive, not that we cannot. Often, this is because we are still waiting for the sweet of revenge. But for those who succeeded in exacting revenge, even they will tell us that the sweetness does not last. It does not bring the peace that we ultimately seek. It does little to satisfy and fill our life.
The mist of anger leads to the fog of bitterness. We have all experience many nasty turns in life, but each turn has led us to be who we are or who we can be today. Sometimes we refuse to acknowledge that we are in a better place because of what others have done to us. We are still bitter towards our ex-employer for firing us unjustly, but we are in a happier state today because of that. We are still bitter over our ex- 20 years on, but will we give up our happy family today to marry her?
Bitterness has a hold on us and only forgiveness can release us from its grip.
We are mere creatures and we crave for satisfaction. Today, erase the fantasies of revenge and make the decision to forgive, and we will begin to taste the sweetness of the fullness of life; a fullness that truly satisfy.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time