Amazing how very different I can be from one situation or moment to another! At times I am harsh and judgmental while in other places my heart seems much softer and accepting. Occasionally the difference rests in the situation itself yet, more often, the difference is within me. The same unpleasant behavior in another person will elicit fury one day and light humor another. Each morning, as part of my prayer discipline, I try to list the various feelings I am experiencing. The list is usually fairly long and the feelings themselves are often contradictory. I may feel a sense of peace about one situation and be terribly nervous about another. Also surprising to me is the fact that my feelings are sometimes incongruent with the situation itself. Something which logically should cause great concern may be a place where I feel calm or exhilirated, or I may be obsessing about something which is really going very well. The big and little things in life often get reversed in my emotions. And then there are days when, no matter what happens, I just feel great inside. Conversely, of course, there are days when nothing can keep me from those negative feelings.
Dealing with our emotions is an important part of our spiritual development. And, like all spiritual matters, we must deal with this on a daily basis rather than just once and be done with it. Our feelings can lead us to breakthroughs in understanding but they also lead to the very worst of our behaviors. Unfortunately our tendency is to react to our feelings before we have reflected on them. We assume our feelings are about the situation we face and then leap in to affect the situation in the hope that it will lead to feelings we like. In our moments of clarity, however, we know our feelings tell us more about ourselves than the situations we face. The healthier we are, the more appropriately we sift through our emotions and then act. The healthier we are, the less controlled are our actions. Our feelings are guides and obstacles all at the same time.
In the 7th chapter of Luke Jesus is dining with Simon the Pharisee. A woman notorious for her sins appears and begins to clean Jesus’ feet with her own tears and massage them with ointment. Simon is furious and cannot understand the acceptance of such a sinful woman. Jesus’ response leads us to appreciate the tremendous relief this woman has experienced through forgiveness. Since she has been forgiven so large a debt, she is all the more loving in her actions. The passage ends with words directed at Simon: one who is forgiven little, loves little.
Occasionally, at least, my harsh reactions to other people or to situations I face reveal that I have shut myself off from grace. Sometimes I just forget that I have been forgiven so very much, or even that I have done and left undone some things which need forgiveness. Then I act out of that harsh place and become focused on what I think someone else deserves to have happen. I edge into thinking that good things should only come to those who do good things. I gloss over my own sins and come to believe I have earned my place and that others must earn theirs.
One who is forgiven little, loves little. My harshness and judgmental attitude says more about me than the person or situation I am dealing with. Certainly there are times when such attitudes are valuable guides to correct behavior, but often they are obstacles to grace. Sometimes I have forgotten just how much I have been forgiven. Sometimes I even think I don’t need forgiveness! Amazingly, though, my harsh reactions can help me remember the forgiveness offered to me daily. Sometimes it takes forgetting and then remembering to help us know more deeply the great debt that has been paid for us by Christ.
As those feelings about others rise within me, I am invited to ask myself what those feelings reveal about my own place with my Lord and Savior. Have I forgotten my own forgiveness? The more vehement the feelings, the more appreciation of grace I just might gain. Have you forgotten your own need of forgiveness and the reality of that forgiveness through the Cross? Remember. Repent. Return to the Lord.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Bishop’s Annual Visit and Confirmation
This Sunday, May 12, at 10:30 with Reception to Follow
Come welcome the Bishop and honor our Confirmands
Daniel Cenci’s Ordination to the Diaconate
Saturday, May 18, 11:00 am with Reception to Follow