In the Gospel reading today, Jesus ate a meal with a Pharisee. When they sat down to eat, Jesus did not go through the washing ritual that was appropriate for Jews of the time, and the Pharisee commented on it. Jesus replied: “Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.”
Could Christ say that to us?
Could Christ look at us and see a washed, well-groomed body that looks beautiful and spotless but one that is filled with bitterness, anger, resentment, or even hatred?
We all feel those feelings at one time or another. People have hurt us. Their actions have left scars. Because of that, we hold onto anger and can’t seem to let it go. It begins to weigh us down.
Not only does it weigh us down, but it starts to bubble out of our polished exterior. No matter what we do, it comes out—in both little and big ways. Maybe we’re rude to the cashier at the grocery store. Maybe we’re unkind to a coworker. Maybe we snap at our children or spouse. We don’t mean to, but the festering wounds take over.
It’s so difficult to keep this from happening, and some circumstances require us to seek professional help.
But sometimes we just need to make a conscious decision to clean the inside, to purge those negative feelings, and to forgive. For that’s what it comes down to—forgiveness. Whether we must forgive ourselves or forgive the person who hurt us—or both—we will feel freer, lighter, and more at peace when we let go of those feelings that keep us from being our best selves.
It’s not easy. In fact, forgiveness is really hard! But it starts with small steps. And it starts with the realization that we are only responsible for our behaviors. We can only control what we do. We cannot control the actions of other people.
So today, think of that person (or people) who has hurt you. Take a deep breath and say aloud: “I forgive you.” And try to mean it. It may take days or weeks of saying these words, but you will soon feel the weight lifted.
You can also seek help in the confessional. Speaking with a priest, telling him that you’re holding onto these feelings, seeking his advice and encouragement and asking God for forgiveness can really go a long way toward actually forgiving someone. Tell him you’re having a difficult time. Ask for his prayers.
But most important of all, ask God for His help. Tell Him you want to forgive, that you want all those negative feelings on the inside to be washed away. Tell Him that you are trying to make the inside as clean as the outside.
God is there with open arms. He will help you. You just need to ask.
Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.
Feature Image Credit: Exe Lobaiza, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/13553-es-dios-quien-te-escucha