Friday, 27 January 2023

3rd Sunday after Epiphany 22 January 2023 Sermon

 3rd Sunday after Epiphany 22 Jan 2023 Hot coals

There is a saying: Don't get mad get even. For Christians neither will do. Don’t get mad or even – leave vengeance to the Lord.

In the epistle today: Do not repay injury with injury. Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord.

Our first reaction on being offended is to be like a vigilante committee, taking our own revenge. We are impatient to see those who hurt us suffer in some way.

On further reflection: we leave it to the Lord, as He says.

Even if we do leave it to the Lord we should still not delight in the prospect of their suffering.

I should not be pleased if my enemy is to suffer. What I should want is his conversion; that he be turned from enemy to friend.

As the Lord Himself says: He does not desire the death of the wicked man; rather that he turn from his evil way and live (Ezekiel 33,11). We must follow the same line. We want our enemies to know the love of God and be transformed.

It is easy in a general way to say I would not wish anyone in hell; or that I forgive everyone who has ever offended me. But when we recall particular people and offences the sense of resentment can return very strongly, even from many years ago. So we realize there is more healing needed.

We have to shift to a Christ-like way of thinking; enter the depths of the Sacred Heart. We are touching the edges of divine love here, getting to an intensity of love far beyond the usual understanding.

Human love tends to be limited. Thus we love those who love us or who have been good to us. God, however, loves those who are evil and have done evil to Him.

Christ wanted His enemies to be His friends, even those who crucified Him.

We draw fire from His heart, a capacity to love far beyond what we have known. It is a completely different way of looking at things.

Can we do this? Is it possible? With grace, yes.

We are already doing this to some degree, for example, during Mass and in some of our prayers - Our Father: as we forgive those who trespass against us; and the Hail Mary: pray for us sinners... We have to say those words if we are to pray the prayer, and if we say the words we have to mean them.

And the whole of the Mass is about praying for the salvation of others as well as oneself. His blood is shed for many... Have mercy on us (not just me).

We let these powerful words and rituals take us to a higher level. We can do whatever God can do insofar as we are joined to Him. The new way of looking at things becomes natural to us in the process.

In any case no one can get into heaven who has not been through this. Every trace of malice or resentment has to be burnt out of the system.

This is where the hot coals of the epistle come in. Those who offend us will have to go through a certain amount of pain even if they are converted. True contrition does mean pain, as we come to an awareness of the evil we have done. It hurts to think back on these things, and those who have offended us will have to suffer that much pain. But the sweetness of being forgiven is far greater.

We all need forgiving; we always need mercy from God and sometimes from other people. Let us not begrudge it to anyone who needs it from us.

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