Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 15th November 2020.
A friend telephoned recently, and in the course of the conversation it seemed clear that there was a tension between him and his children. They were not communicating with each other for whatever reasons. And I thought: how sad. I am sure the situation is not unique. In fact, I have come across that kind of situation on more the a few occasions over the years. The problem is that, if an argument or disagreement is allowed to fester, then the longer you leave it, the far longer it will take to get the parties reconciled – if at all.
That sort of stand-off usually results from the act of one person upsetting another, who in turn takes offence. How does one resolve the situation? Edward Kennedy, the American lawyer and politician, once said: ‘It takes two sides to make a lasting peace, but it only takes one to make the first step.’ So there are two lessons here. Someone who has hurt another needs to be prepared to take the first step and ask for forgiveness, and the person who has been hurt has to be prepared to forgive. Very often, vanity or pride gets in the way of backing down from a stand-off and allowing people to make up their differences.
There is a danger that those who are hurt by others will harbour, at best, resentment and, at worst, hatred. But harbouring hatred can have a very negative effect on one’s own well-being. By harbouring hatred or resentment, we only punish ourselves.
I was listening to a radio interview on Thursday morning. In his 20s, a Polish Jew called Eddie Jaku survived internment in Auschwitz, where he experienced appalling maltreatment and deprivation. At the age of 100, in a book entitled ‘The Happiest Man on Earth’, published this week, he retells his powerful life story. He said in the radio interview that he had learned to stare evil in the face, but he bore no hatred towards those who ill-treated him. I looked him up on the internet later in the day and I found this quotation from him: “I do not hate anyone, not even Hitler. Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy, but will destroy you in the process. You may not like everyone, but that doesn’t give you the right to be nasty to them. I don’t love everyone, but I hate no one.”
I see three aspects of reconciliation. The first is the need to restore a healthy relationship with those with whom we are at odds. Secondly, it is about reconciling our feelings of hurt with our Christian faith – and finding peace within ourselves. And thirdly, it is about reconciling ourselves with God – saying sorry if we have hurt someone, and behaving as God would want us to (forgiving) when we ourselves are hurt by others. Otherwise, how can we say, ‘ … and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us …’.
Reconciliation requires courage, generosity of spirit and forgiveness. Fortunately, we have a loving God who can help us with all these things.
Jesus said (Matthew Ch. 5) that being angry with someone was as bad as disobeying one of the Ten Commandments, and went on to say: “ … if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,” you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
So let us resolve always to try to settle any differences we may have with others. Eddie Jaku said he never hated anyone, and he has managed to reach the age of 100 and to be able to call himself ‘The Happiest Man on Earth’. There must be lessons there for us all. Perhaps one of them is: ‘Reconciliation = Peace’.
The Peace of the Lord be always with you.