MAY 19, 2002, PENTECOST: HOMILY

WHEN THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH COMES HE WILL BEAR WITNESS TO ME.  Our Lord follows up this consoling promise with the commission to the apostles to bear witness to him in turn.  He adds that this witness will have to be made in a hostile environment.  They will be slandered, rejected, persecuted, even killed.  He states explicitly that he gives them this warning so that they will not be shaken in their confidence when they encounter such opposition.  History tells us that his followers took these words to heart and that with the strength imparted by the Spirit they were all able to carry out their mission effectively and to remain faithful under persecution, even unto death.

All of us need to recur to these words of our Lord from time to time so that we might shape our attitudes and our thinking according to its message.   Inevitably when we meet with opposition, disfavor, criticism even rejection as we strive to the best of our powers to live according to the Gospel we feel deeply the injustice of life.  How can persons of good will fail to understand our intentions?  Why is it that people reject our best efforts when they are clearly made in view of their own good?  Why do those for whom I have put myself out most prove ungrateful or even turn against me?  None of us can avoid posing such questions and the pain that gives rise to them

Active charity means taking risks, going out to others, extending our self when opportunity presents itself for doing good.  Such efforts are sometimes a source of joy at the favorable even generous response given to them.  But often enough we find we are misunderstood and criticized, or that our efforts are treated as an intrusion, or a cause for annoyance.  There seems to be a countless variety of reasons why we are rebuffed by persons who had seemed likely to benefit from our attempts to be useful to them. 

Each such occasion presents us with an opportunity to grow in trust that the Lord will bring good out of our failure and such suffering as it produces.   It is also an opportunity to grow in self-knowledge and humility.  Often enough it is some defect of our own, such as a lack of tact or prudence or some over hasty manner that contributes something to the poor reception we are given.  This only adds to our chagrin.  Unless we react to such unpleasantness with a strong faith and strive to turn it to account as a lesson in patience and humility we can begin to withdraw into our self, and become self-protective in an effort to spare our injured sensibility in the future.  If we yield to the temptation to allow feelings of bitterness to take root in our spirit, we will be inclined to avoid all such risks in the future.  

Matters do not stop there.  Resentment, once admitted into the soul, gnaws at the thoughts, and readily devises excuses for not cooperating with others. Specious reasons for avoiding the fulfillment of duties deceive no one but the subject himself.  Hurt feelings and resentments make one adept at distancing oneself from those who have a right to expect a friendly interaction in the course of daily encounters. Even friendly efforts from concerned brothers and associates meet with rationalizations or outright rebuff, and are treated as unwelcome intrusions. The dynamic of such repressed resentment works gradually to weave a protective cocoon about the person who cherishes this corrosive sentiment.  The result is the establishment and maintenance of an emotional isolation.  An accompanying hypersensitity to any imagined slight or offence makes the alienation seem a justified response to being misunderstood and unappreciated.  After a time no one feels free to approach for fear of stirring up the smoldering fire.  Authorities hesitate to make even reasonable demands upon them lest they meet with more excuses or some emotional outburst that make matters worse.  How much isolation is created in families and communities by such hidden resentments!   How greatly some persons exercise an emotional tyranny over those they live with by their displays of hypersensitivity!  What could be more foreign to the disciple of Christ than yielding to the temptations of resentment and the sorry satisfactions of temper tantrums!   None of us is immune to such temptations on occasion. May the Lord grant we never yield to their seductions. 

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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