Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Bishop Barron - How to Heal a Broken Relationship

Bishop Barron - How to Heal a Broken Relationship

Bishop Barron - How to Heal a Broken Relationship

Peace be with you. Friends, our first reading for this weekend is taken from the marvelous book of Sirach. Maybe some older Catholics would remember it as the book of Ecclesiasticus, it was so listed in some earlier translations of the Bible. It was written the scholars speculate around the year 175 BC, not too long before the time of Jesus, and likely written in Alexandria, where there was a very large and important Jewish community. It's not a narrative, the book of Sirach. You don't so much sit down and read it from cover to cover like a story. It's a collection of aphorisms, kind of brief statements, usually of a moral nature. So it's a really good book to peruse. You could kind of just dip into the book of Sirach and draw little tidbits of wisdom throughout it.

Well, the passage for today is from the twenty-eighth chapter of Sirach. By the way, it's kind of a long book, Sirach. So you can spend a good amount of time with it. But we're looking now at chapter twenty-eight. It has to do with anger, vengeance, and forgiveness. Interesting to me how central those themes were to the preaching of Jesus. Go through the teaching of the Lord, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. Notice how often he refers to these issues of anger, forgiveness. Well, we see this now in Sirach. Here's the one liner from the reading for today that stays in my mind. "Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight". Boy, talking about holding a mirror up to us, huh, fellow sinners. "Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight".

Gosh, even as we know, holding on to these grudges and hanging on to old resentments, even as I know how destructive that is, yet I hold them tight. How fruitless, how self-destructive this is, and yet boy, do we hang onto them. Am I right? Someone harmed you or insulted you, maybe decades ago, you're still not over it. I found in my years of pastoral ministry, how often this sort of thing obtains especially within families, right? The people that we are closest to, the people we love the most, are often those against whom we hold grudges the longest. Will I ever forget? This is now over thirty years ago. I'm a newly ordained priest and I was presiding at a funeral. And I went down to the family at the sign of peace to greet them. And I greeted a few people, but then I heard and saw this exchange.

A sister turned to a brother to offer the sign of peace and the brother said, I never want to speak to you again. That was at the funeral of I think it was their mother. Grudges, how we hold them tight, don't we? Well, if this obtains at the interpersonal level, how much more at the geopolitical, at the national level? Hanging on to resentments, refusing to forgive. Middle East, anybody? Or think of this one, this goes back to maybe the year of 2003 or 2002. It was not long before John Paul II died and he was visiting Greece. And here's at that point the very aged and infirm John Paul II, this poor little old man making his way, but this hugely negative reaction on the part of many Greeks to this Roman pope coming. And they were asked, "Well, what's behind this resentment of this poor little infirm man bringing a message of a peace? What's the problem"?

I'm not kidding, what they said was, Well, the crusades back in 1206, when the Latin armies came and they overran Constantinople. Well, yeah, I know that was a terrible thing. They were on their way to the Holy Land, they actually stopped in this great Christian city and they ransacked it. Yes, it was a terrible thing, but it was eight hundred years ago, everybody. It was eight hundred years ago. But we hold them tight, don't we? We hug them tight, these resentments. To be fair, talk to most Irish people about the English, you'll find some of these old resentments.

When I was a student over in Paris, I came to know the Belgian scene a little bit and of course the war between the Wallons and the Flammons, French speaking and the Dutch kind of speaking. They fight like mad. I mean, within the confines of this little country. I came across this not that long ago: the movie "The Two Popes" on Netflix, which by the way, I don't like very much, but the two actors are wonderful. Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce play the two popes, Benedict and Francis. And there was an interview with them and the interviewer said, "Oh, the two of you must be very simpatico. You're both Welshman". And I think it was Pryce who said, "Well, yeah, we are. But remember I'm from the northern part of Wales and Tony's from the southern part of Wales".

And I'm sure there's some ancient conflict between northern Welshman and southern Welshman. You get my point: how we tend to hug to ourselves resentments, both personal and international. It's just something we sinners do. Okay. So what is anger? What is this, this clinging to resentment? Here's Thomas Aquinas with typical laconicism defining it. Thomas says, anger is a passion for revenge that goes beyond the control of reason. That's nice. Listen again. This is the deadly sin of anger, is a passion for revenge that goes beyond the control of reason. Thomas knew there's a kind of justified anger, which is a passion to set things right. Think of a Martin Luther King in our country who is angry if you want at social injustice and wanted to set it right. Well, that's a legitimate anger. The Lord Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers, et cetera.

So there's that. He's not talking about that. That's not the deadly sin of anger, but rather a passion for revenge. So you've hurt me in some way, so I'm going to get back at you, and in a way that goes beyond the control of reason. So it's not simply a desire to set things right, not just desire to reestablish justice, but a desire to hurt you and to punish you that goes beyond the control of reason. I've always loved this from Dante's "Purgatorio". The seven deadly sins are dealt with on the seven storey mountain of purgatory. How are the angry dealt with? Well, they're made to breathe in smoke. See, sometimes Dante makes the sinners experience the effects of their sin. And that strikes me as right. That when you're in the grip of anger, it's like smoke. It's in your eyes so you can't see clearly. You're choking on it, so you can't breathe. You can't speak clearly. You kind of sputter.

Again, that should sound familiar, fellow sinners; when we're in the grip of anger and resentment, it's like we're in the cloud of smoke. So what's the antidote? How do we stop hugging tight our resentments? Well, the classic antidote is called forgiveness. Again, how central it was to the preaching of Jesus. How often should I forgive my brother? Seven times? No, I tell you seventy times seven times. Meaning again and again and again and again and again, without limit, forgive. Well, what is forgiveness precisely? Let me put it this way. If two people have been alienated, right? So they're meant to be in union, but now they're alienated. There's some injustice done, there's some evil that was done and the two people are now alienated. Well, in justice, each would do his part. You'd make your move, you make your move and you come back together, right? You'd be reconciled by an equal move toward the sinner.

And when that happens, great, that's great. That's the reestablishment of justice. I do my part, you do your part. What's forgiveness? I do my part, but you don't budge. So what do I do? I'll bear your burden, watch, I'll go the extra mile. I'll do what you should have done. Not that rubbing it in, that just makes it worse, but I've done my part and now I continue. Even if you keep running away, I continue. How often? Seven times? No, seventy times seven times. Forgiveness is bearing the burden of the other. What the other should carry in justice, you carry for him. Hard? You bet. Because you say, "Look, it's hard enough for me to do my bit. Hey, I've made my effort and you didn't move. Oh, that bugs me. I'm not going to take one more step in your direction". That's hugging our resentment. No, no; go the extra mile, seek them out.

Do what he should have done. That's forgiveness. Both Sirach and the Lord Jesus tie our forgiveness of others very tightly to God's forgiveness of us. Here's Sirach. "Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven". See, there it is. What did Jesus say? We say it every time we recite the Lord's Prayer. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". Why do we forgive seventy times seven times? Because we've been forgiven that way. How often does God forgive us? Constantly, without limit. Look, how often do we come back in justice to God? Typically, we don't. We typically run away. He comes running after us. Think of the prodigal son as the father comes running down the hill toward him. Think of the shepherd looking for the lost sheep. That's the way God forgives us. And therefore we should forgive each other in the same measure. Difficult? Mm-hmm. But Jesus says, Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. He's not calling us to spiritual mediocrity. He's calling us to spiritual heroism. It's no longer I who live, Paul says, but Christ who lives in me.

If Christ lives in you, the same Christ that forgives you seventy times seven times, then you must forgive your brother or sister just that way. See how self-destructive this move is, I mean the clinging to our resentments. Just think about it. Right now, everyone listening to me, hold in your mind, I know you can do it because I can do it right now, hold in your mind a resentment that you've been hanging onto for way too long. There's somebody that hurt you, and I mean really hurt you. I don't mean it's just some little hang-up you got. I mean, they really hurt you objectively, and boy did it bug you. And you've been hugging that resentment now maybe for decades. Think about that right now. And think how self-destructive that has been, how that sapped you of your moral strength, how it's eaten away at your own heart. Stop hugging the resentment. Bear the burden of the other. That's forgiveness.

How about as I close, just some practical advice? Can I urge everybody listening to me right now, and I'm going to try to follow it because I'm preaching to myself here, take a concrete step this week. Don't put it off; this week, a concrete step toward healing a broken relationship. Remember my image. So even if you've done your part and that person's not budged, go the extra mile. That might mean a note, a nice letter, email, phone call, a conversation, something where you reach out, inviting the resumption of that relationship. Do something concrete and practical this week to repair a broken relationship, and maybe the older the resentment, the better. Think of someone that you've been alienated from for way too long. Do something. Here's a second bit of advice. When you've been hurt, forgive quickly. The danger of course is that we just allow these things to fester. You hurt me and I've never said anything about it. I just kind of cling to it and I complained to others.

And now in a week, and now a month, and now a year, and now a decade's gone by, I'm still clinging to this festering wound. Don't do that. Don't wait. Don't wait. Rather, when someone hurts you, forgive quickly. Send that note quickly. Send an email quickly. Reach out in conversation quickly, and don't let the wound of that resentment fester. Here's another thing, everybody. Stop talking behind people's backs. It just leads to trouble. It is just spiritual poison. It accomplishes nothing. It fulfills a certain psychological need in us. I get that. That's why we do it. But spiritually speaking, it's deadly. Stop doing that. It just feeds resentment. It feeds this unproductive stuff. Here's something, and it links to the sermon from last week about fraternal correction. It was taught to me by John Shea, who was a teacher of mine at Mundelein Seminary many years ago. He said this: "Criticize another person only in the measure that you are willing to help the person deal with the problem that you're raising".

Okay. So you're critical of someone, maybe legitimately so. All right; to what degree are you willing to help that person deal with the problem? But no, I'm not willing at all. Well, then keep your mouth shut! Then don't say anything. If you're totally unwilling to help, don't say anything. Hey, I'm kind of mildly interested in helping. All right, then maybe offer a mild criticism. "No, I'm in all the way. I'm willing to commit my entire self to helping you deal with that problem". Okay, then go ahead and criticize. It's a very good principle. Criticize another person only in the measure that you're willing to help them deal with the problem that you're raising. I think a lot of hurt feelings and resentments and all that would clear up if we follow that principle.

What's the great sign everybody for us Christians of forgiveness? It's Jesus on the cross. "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do". If there's ever been anyone who'd be justified in his anger, it's the Lord Jesus, the sinless Christ, the incarnate Son of God nailed to a cross by stupid and wicked and cruel people. Even the word that comes from his mouth is a word of forgiving love. "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do". When he comes back to his disciples after the Resurrection, to those who betrayed him, denied him, abandoned him in his moment of greatest need, the word on his lips is "shalom," peace. It's a word of forgiveness and reconciliation. I know, I know; wrath and anger are hateful things, and yet we hug them tight. Let go, and instead walk the path of forgiving love. And God bless you.
Are you Human?:*