Monday November 10, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

 

Reading (Wisdom 1:1-7) Gospel (St. Luke 17:1-6)

 

In the first reading we hear about wisdom. Wisdom, as we know from Saint Paul, is Jesus Christ; wisdom is the Spirit of God. And so we hear right from the very beginning of Wisdom things like: she is found by the those who do not test God, perverse counsels separate us from God, wisdom does not enter into a body under the debt of sin, the holy spirit of discipline flees deceit and withdraws from senseless counsels, wisdom does not acquit the blasphemer. All of these different points are made with regard to wisdom because the wisdom of God is given to us in order to help us to know the Will of God, in order to lead us along the way of God Himself. Anything that goes contrary to God, we are going to be convicted of by wisdom, by the Spirit of God Who is within us. Yet sometimes what happens is that we do not want to listen to what the Lord has to say because we want to be stubborn in our own ways and we want to justify our own sinfulness. Even if it is something where we are not outwardly sinning in any kind of objective mortal way, then all the more we will look at it and say, Is it a mortal sin? No? Well, then Im okay, as though it is perfectly all right to continue to sin in any form.

 

Our Lord tells us, for instance, in the Gospel reading that we have to forgive people, and He tells us that as often as someone repents we need to forgive. The problem is, of course, that some people do not repent and then we use that as the justification for our failure to forgive: Look at what they did to me! They didnt come to say that they were sorry so Im not going to forgive them. Well, the problem with that is that it is a deceit of the devil, which is exactly where we are told that wisdom will not dwell in someone who is filled with deceit, because wisdom is truth and the devil is a liar.

 

The reality is that the single most powerful thing the devil has to hold on to in any one of us is unforgiveness. Now there are lots of things that he gets to hold on to, but unforgiveness is the most powerful thing. And if you are not willing to forgive somebody else for whatever they have done, the devil has a stronghold in your life. So why is it then that we think, first of all, I dont want to forgive; I dont need to forgive; Im justified in being angry, after all? It is because of the loser who is right there holding on to us, telling us that we should not forgive because he knows that as soon as we do forgive he is out. As long as we are unwilling to forgive, he has a nice home to stay in. He has a vested interest in making sure that we do not forgive, and he will give us a hundred and one reasons why we should not After all, look at what that person did to you. But the Lord makes very clear to us that it does not matter what somebody does to us. The most hideous and heinous things we have to be willing to forgive.

 

And remember that to forgive does mean to say it was okay; we are not going to suggest that is the case. To forgive means Im going to let go of it. Im not going to drag this around with me anymore. Im going to let go so that it doesnt have the weight to pull me down any longer. Thats what its about. It is letting go of it in our own lives. How many of us are still angry about something that happened twenty and thirty and forty years ago in our lives? If it comes up, you would think it just happened an hour ago by the reaction that we have as we get all agitated and start spouting off. We make pretty good fools of ourselves when we go into our little tirades. And to what end? It did not hurt the person at all who did whatever they did, whether it was yesterday or forty years ago. The only person it hurts is us. And so refusing to forgive hurts only us. It is not doing anything to the person we refuse to forgive, but it is having a profound impact on ourselves.

 

Even in that perspective, it is only in our own best interest if we would forgive. But we should really look beyond self-interest; we want to look at it in charity. And charity would demand, first of all, that we forgive others. Charity also tells us that if we let go of these things it opens up the way to be able to love God more. It removes the stronghold that the devil has on us. It is a win-win situation to forgive, and it is a lose-lose situation to refuse to forgive. And I should point out, of course, that the one who is the most difficult to forgive is most oftentimes our own self. We need to be willing to forgive even self, otherwise, how can we accept Gods forgiveness of ourself? So we need to be willing to do that.

 

If there is anything at all that you are hanging on to, that you are angry about, that you refuse to forgive, bring that to prayer and bring it to confession. If it is a deep hurt you may have to confess it week after week after week after week after week for a long time before you get rid of it all. But each time you bring it up in confession you are taking a chunk out of it, and there is going to be less and less of the anger there. And pray for the person who offended you because that is the greatest act of charity and that will help you to let go. Pray for the grace to be able to forgive and to be able to let go of it so that you can be free, not only free from the shackles of the anger and the unforgiveness, but free ultimately to be able to love God and to love neighbor as we have been commanded. That is the wisdom of God and it is exactly what Wisdom has done for us. He has forgiven us our sins so that we can love Him and we can love one another with His love itself.

 

* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.