24th Sunday A
13th September 2020
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“Resentment and anger, these are foul things”
Whenever one hears the voice of Nelson Mandela one cannot but be struck by how measured and calm his speech was. All despite the fact that he spent 26 years in Robben Island as a convict – some of it in solitary confinement.
The same might be said of so many who have suffered in a similar fashion despite being entirely innocent.
There are, however, so many who understandably harbour deep hurt, resentment and anger with the perpetrators of unjust and brutal governance which discriminates against the weakest and the poor. This depth of hurt and resentment generates a desire for vengeance in the form of unrest to the point of violent revolution.
However, there is another form of anger and resentment which has less to do with society and human rights but has everything to do with our experience of the human condition itself. And given the current experience of the pandemic and the greater impact it is having as it stretches into an uncertain future heretofore hidden anger is erupting in peoples lives like fiery lava pours out from a volcano. This anger and resentment is likely to test us more and more in the challenges that, we are told, lie ahead.
The reaction will no doubt be – this is not fair. Children have their lives hugely disrupted – their education, their recreation not to speak of fear and anxiety. Right now, those finishing secondary school and trying to choose a career and life path are saying this is not fair. So many that felt they had secure employment and made decisions based on it find so much is changed and uncertain and that is not fair – it is not their fault.
As the health care system geared itself up to cope with Covid – which it has done very well, meant many people with other health issues have gone to the back of the queue – and that is not fair.
My friends, there is so much in life that is not fair. So much of this is within our personal control and we need to take responsibility for it – but so much seems beyond our control and we are overwhelmed by it and can be tempted to despair.
These thoughts ’round anger and resentment are prompted by our Readings to-day which we invite to speak to our hearts at this unusual time for humanity. The Bk. of Ecclesiasticus speaks eloquently about the destructive power of resentment and anger while being equally so about the power of compassion, mercy and forgiveness. That healing power of mercy and forgiveness is conveyed so forcefully by Jesus in his relating the story of the Masters treatment of the pleading servant.
The spiritual issue at the heart of our life experience is how do we cope with the inevitable questions of sickness, misfortune, incapacity and frailty we face?
The good part is that a huge percentage of people do it very well – and do so with great dignity and realistic acceptance. And that does not mean they give up or “throw in the towel” on the contrary they embrace the challenges with a positive motivation and intention. It is inspiring to witness it.
Of real concern though are the growing number who live with the expectation that life is meant to be a suffering free adventure in which either the State or God or both ought to provide. This sense of entitlement to contentment is neither realistic or possible. In that sense Covid 19 is not just a threat to our physical wellbeing but to our spirit and soul as well.
Life has enough crosses in the normal course of events without the uncertainty and devastation of war, revolution and disease. When any of these come to our door resentment and anger can find rich soil in which to find roots. But they are as the Bk. of Ecclesiasticus declares “foul things”.
Does it not seem extraordinary that in the midst of a pandemic the announcement of the abortion figure for 2019 of 6666 goes entirely unremarked upon by commentators? Is it not equally strange that in the midst of the pandemic, which is costing the economy between 25 – 30 billion – of which 3 billion will be spent on managing Covid, that the most “progressive” piece of legislation being proposed is that of “Assisted Suicide”?
Are we not politically deeply confused? Writing to the Romans St. Paul taught
“The life and death of each of us has its influence on others, if we live we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord”.