The past couple of weeks have been rather [emotionally] intense. There were several days where the object of my anger wore the face of a priest – the pastor at our parish. He’s one of those people in my life in whom I see and sense a very deep and intense spirituality… he’s a marvelous preacher… he can really get through to me. I wish sometimes he would heed his own preaching.

He’s one of those folks that I love to death – he’s been there in reconciliation (ok Confession) and really let the Light shine through. He gives great homilies. And more often than not, he behaves in ways that make me want to pinch his head off, or failing that just shake him.

And so, while my frustration and anger was running full bore, I picked up the Sunday readings for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and got whacked between the eyes. Let’s quote a bit here from Luke 6:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“To you who hear I say,
love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well, …

For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same…

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

OK – whoa! Now I had to not only pick music for the mass (which would feature this gospel), but I realized I had to go home and pray that same passage. Like – reach beyond wanting to pinch his head off and be generous, and loving, and stop judging.  Ouch. I am much better at this when I am the direct object of someone’s bad behaviour than when I see my friends hurting because of someone’s bad behaviour. This wasn’t going to be easy.

In the mean time, another emotional disaster struck. A friend, a companion on the journey and someone who had been helpful in offering a plan to deal with said priest in a positive and gentle, but assertive manner, fell ill. In this world of medical miracles, she was one of those unthinkable cases: she died. I talked with her, and she offered her sage advice on Wednesday night; on Thursday I read the gospel from Luke; on Friday, she went to the doctor because her closest friend made her – and by Tuesday, she was gone.

She lives a very long way away from me. The person who introduced us, and was very close to her kept me posted by phone. There were times when I was angry that I was far away and couldn’t even give him a hug as he watched this unfold.

What do you do? The best thing I did was to own that anger. Not express it out loud (except maybe to the dogs and the birds in the back yard) – just own it. Sit down with it. Listen to it. And then I could send it on it’s merry way.

And maybe that’s the “magic” in the sacrament of reconciliation (the sacrament formerly known as Confession – and maybe known as that again)… I own the anger, I own the mistakes, I own the fear. Only when I know that, when I embrace those emotions, can I give them up and let them go, and say “I’m really sorry” or maybe “now that just isn’t worth the energy it required.” And be blessed – whether I do it in the sacramental fashion, or just with me and God.

I believe Francis of Asisi  was entirely correct: It is in forgiving that we are forgiven.