As I reflect on the readings for Sunday, I am struck by the first sentence of Sirach:
“Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.”
Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? I mean wrath and anger are like poison. There are a ton of references in the bible about how HARMFUL anger is for you. But just like junk food, we know that it is bad for us, yet we crave it anyways. I guess it all goes back to our fallen nature passed down from the first sin of Adam and Eve. Their mistake, their sin of pride, their decision to GO AGAINST GOD and trust in themselves for what is best is what cost them salvation, and the salvation of the human race…
Sirach (Or Ben Sira, depending on the translation) continues saying we all struggle with sin, therefore we are in constant need of forgiveness and mercy. Our sinfulness causes us to be self-centered so we don’t treat others like we should. Take me and my kids for example. I yell at them when they shouldn’t do what they are doing. Sometimes I yell at them instead of talk gently or lovingly to them because yelling at them makes me feel better. Or at least it feels better for a second… until the mom guilt sets in that I just yelled like a crazy woman at them. Is it the best way to talk to them? No. It’s really not. But does that stop me?
Here’s the thing that Sirach points out to us though… if we don’t show mercy to others and forgive them (my kids acting up for the billionth time, or that friend who lied to you), how do we expect God to show us mercy? If we hang on to anger about something or someone, how do we expect God (or even others) to let go of the anger they may have for us?
The Psalms for Sunday chime in to remind us that the Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness. Whew! God is good, so he’ll forgive me, right? Absolutely. Jesus died so this could happen. We have been redeemed. But that is not all we get out of the readings… The gospel then brings it on home…
Peter asks Jesus, “If my brother sins against me, how many times should I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Oh, Peter. He’s one of my favorites because he asks what we are all thinking. I mean, WE HUG OUR SINFULLNESS TIGHT and we all know Peter struggled with anger. I mean, he did cut a dudes ear off without a second thought. #ragey
But Peter says what all of us are thinking! “Jesus, you have to understand that I am only human! I can’t put up with peoples’ BS over and over again right? I mean I have the right to NOT forgive them if they are being total idiots, RIGHT? I have the right to be angry at them if they did ________.”
How many times have we said that to ourselves?
Jesus knows us and knows that it’s hard for us to take criticism, so he responds to Peters whining, I mean question, with a parable ( a story that teaches us something). The parable of the Wicked Servant teaches us in order to receive mercy, we must show it. So even though it feels SO GOOD to be angry at people sometimes, it separates us from the love and mercy God has for us.
Not sure about you all, but I could use all the love and mercy I can get.
With all my heart (even the sometimes angry part),
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.