Wrong Against Brother
It is said that the only person who can hurt us is someone we love and the deeper the love the worse the hurt. A total stranger can hurt us physically but only someone we love – a trusted friend can injure us emotionally. Like most generalizations, that seems like an overstatement. My guess is that we have all been hurt by a stranger or someone we hardly knew.
When we were small, perhaps other children left us out of their games and that hurt us. As adults, we may have been treated with contempt by a fellow worker or neighbor and that can hurt but the people who can hurt us the most are those we love. Have you ever found out that someone you trusted lied to you? When that happens it is not easy to get over it.
Trust that had been built up over years can be destroyed in an hour. When we are used and abused by someone we love, it is a painful experience. Jesus speaks about this in today’s Gospel, he began by saying “If your brother or sister should commit some wrong against you…” and that is what we are talking about. When someone close to us hurts us, what should we do?
Jesus does not give us a set of hard rules to be followed in detail but he does give us some insights. First, do not nurse our hurts, they will pass and be forgotten if we would allow it but our tendency is to let them accumulate. We often add the hurts of today to the hurts of yesterday and in no time we end up carrying more than the human spirit can handle.
Life can not be lived that way; we have to let some things go. I heard about a government office that requested permission to destroy some dead files that were out-of-date, useless and taking up space. After a long delay, the reply came back from the Central Agency that permission was granted to destroy the dead files but be sure to make copies of everything. Do we have files in our lives like that? They serve no useful purpose. All they do is to keep us reminded of past wrongs and they occupy so much emotional space.
Then there is the opposite temptation. Instead of stuffing our hurts down on the inside, we may talk about them to anyone who will listen. Jesus had this human tendency in mind when He said – “keep it between the two of you.” A visit with the person who has done us wrong might help to heal the hurt. Sharing our grievance with everyone can not possibly help and it might do greater damage.
As a story is passed from person to person, it gets distorted and then it gets back to the person involved and by this time they may not even recognize it. Then the gap between you becomes wider than ever. When we are hurt it is usually not a good idea to suffer in silence. We may need to talk but not to the whole world. The best place to start is with the one who did the hurting.
Right at the end of the Gospel, Jesus says – “If everything fails, treat the person who has hurt you as a gentile or tax collector.” In modern language this means to let them go. Has someone done you wrong? DO you feel hurt by the words or deeds of someone? Do not nurse it or rehearse it. Make your best effort to set things right and if that fails, let the person go and let the hurt go.
Never allow the attitudes or actions of another person poison your life and always remember the words of Jesus – Father forgive or in the words of Archbishop Tutu of South Africa – “sometimes the victim just has to forgive in order just to live.” While reading this Homily, I was struck very forcefully by the injunction of Jesus. If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go first to be reconciled with your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift. Have you ever done that – do you need to?