I have a problem. My father died when I was 18, leaving my mother a widow. My mother’s next-door neighbor harasses her in ways I won’t go into. It’s fair to say that he is attempting to drive her out of her home by these acts of terrorism. It’s a game to him, and the police are useless (useless). It doesn’t help that, in addition to being a widow, my mother is also a cripple; she is bound to a wheelchair. I live 90 miles from my mother and am not in a position to help her redress the recurring acts of harassment. And I am my mother’s only child.
As we know from multiple passages of the Bible that I don’t need to cite here, God has prepared a special place in Hell for people who molest widows. When my mother tells me of the latest harassment, I want revenge. Not merely justice restored or peaceful reconciliation, but sinful retaliation in kind. And I want it *now.* I commit the sin of hatred when instead I am called to love and pray for and forgive my mother’s persecutor. For a Christian, this is a fundamental rejection of a core commandment of the Gospel. It is a repudiation of the Sermon on the Mount, and hence a repudiation of Christ Himself.
Here is the quandary. I go to Confession once every few weeks, and Holy Communion more often, yet every time I hear about my mother’s suffering at the hands of her neighbor, I am very strongly tempted in this way, and I often succumb to the sin of wrath. Why do the Sacraments not provide me sufficient grace to meet each new provocation with grace, patience, and benignity? Continue reading