The Secret to Living without Resentment
A couple of weeks ago the scriptures led us to describe God as a “pattern of desire.” This might be a helpful way to think about God because as human beings we are a complex matrix of desires, mostly borrowed from those around us, in a kind of “Keep up with the Joneses” syndrome. It is so difficult, as Soren Kierkegaard sermonized, “to will one thing.” Kierkegaard defined holiness as “purity of heart to will one thing.”
This “willing of one thing” is what we called bringing our desire into alignment with God’s desire. What is that? God’s most fundamental desire vis a vis the human race is to show mercy to all. This is what Jesus came to do. His will completely aligned with his Father’s will and hoped that all those who followed him would bring about a new outpouring of mercy in the world. Yes, as followers of Jesus we have our daily duties and routine, but our basic
manifestation in the world is showing mercy of God.
It’s perhaps good to admit that those who have claimed to follow Jesus, baptized in the Name of mercy: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, have most often not shown God’s mercy toward and for all. Instead, thinking that God’s fundamental role and desire is to judge, Jesus’ followers have embraced judgment over mercy. This allows us to protect our interests and “purity” from the possible contamination that “mercy to/for all” would bring.
This misunderstanding that God is concerned with judgment and purity over showing mercy leads to resentment toward any person or situation that doesn’t measure up to what we think are God’s standards. The myriad resentments, large and small, build walls around us and prevent us from living in and sharing God’s mercy.
The story of Joseph from Genesis illustrates better than any other, except perhaps Jesus’ own, the secret of living without resentment. Joseph, the youngest of many brothers, favorite son of Jacob, was envied by his brothers who plotted against him and sold him into slavery. Just think of the resentment that could grow in Joseph against his brothers as he was in the pit. But ironically, Joseph rose from slavery to become the most powerful man in Egypt and his brothers, when a great famine spread in their land, needed to seek food in Egypt, and end up at the mercy of their unrecognized brother Joseph. There’s much more to the story, but the main thing here is how much resentment Joseph could have toward his brothers. He could easily turn down their requests but didn’t. After testing their love for his father Jacob, he sends them off with what they needed without any show of resentment.
What was Joseph’s secret? Joseph knew God loved him and had a plan for his life. This deep knowledge of being loved by God helped him recognize that neither his brothers nor anyone else that he might “justly” feel resentment were worth any negative energy or emotional involvement. Joseph knew that God loved him and had shown him mercy, so he could share this mercy with those in need.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus has interactions with the Pharisees and a Canaanite woman. The Pharisees, pious and law abiding folks, take offense at Jesus’ comment on their dietary laws and points out that it’s not what goes into a man that is important, but what comes out of his heart. Because the Pharisees didn’t lead from their hearts they were blind guides, full of resentment. This is contrasted with the Canaanite woman, who has absolutely no status at all, begging Jesus to heal her daughter. All eyes are on Jesus. When he is hard on her, calling her people dogs, the crowd is probably inwardly agreeing and cheering. But, unlike the Pharisees, the woman takes no offense, and persists in her request, knowing she has no status except what God has given her: Even dogs eat the crumbs from the Master’s table. The Pharisees are full of resentment and show no faith in God. The woman has no resentment, she is who God made her, and demonstrates faith. Her daughter is healed.
The secret to living without resentment and becoming a conduit of mercy to others is to be aware at all times of how much God loves us, as individuals and community. This awareness helps us understand that God’s love and mercy is for all and not just for us. The Holy Eucharist is God’s pledge of love for us. We are fed and nourished by God in the Holy Eucharist so that we might make God’s desire to bring mercy to the world real. “Go in Peace to love and serve the Lord!”
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
|The Reverend John Smith, Vicar|
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