HEALING OLD WOUNDS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 44:18-21, 23-29; 45:1-5; Ps 105:16-21; Mt 10:7-15]
We all have our fair share of being betrayed and unjustly treated by others. Some of us have been abused by our parents, elders, teachers and friends. We have suffered discrimination at home, in school and at work. We feel humiliated, despised and resentful. Sometimes, it is very difficult to forgive those whom we love most for betraying our trust and our love. To discover that your best friend is secretly wooing and dating your partner is something which we cannot forgive.
When that happens, we can either react by falling into depression or brace ourselves for the battle ahead of us. We can take flight or fight. Those of us who are cowed by our enemies and failures will end up destroying our lives. However, some, instead of resigning themselves to the condemnation of the world, seek to prove to the world that they are better and stronger than what they think of them. Our failures and rejections in life only serve to make us stronger. We work hard to arrive at the top, to be successful in our studies, career or business. The day when we are able to show ourselves to be better than our enemies, we feel great about ourselves.
But some of us go even beyond just feeling great about ourselves. We use our newfound status, wealth and power to go after those who have hurt us. We are not happy that we are doing well now but we want to seek revenge on those who have made us suffer all those years when we had to fight in order to stay afloat. We seek revenge and desire to see them suffer for their sins against us. We purposely flaunt our wealth to make them feel envious of us. And if they are in need now, we would not help them even if they ask us. Rather, we want to make sure they go through the same misery that we went through because of them.
Adopting such an attitude actually causes us more harm than good. Although revenge seems to be sweet, yet, it only hardens our hearts, makes us more incapable of love. When we are negative towards others and hostile towards our enemies, we are only growing our anger, resentment and negativisms. As St Paul says, “If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” (Gal 6:8) Indeed, if we want to be prosperous and happy, we need to learn how to let go of old wounds, forgive them so that we can be truly liberated.
This was the case of Joseph in today’s first reading. His brothers were envious of him because he was loved the most by their father. Furthermore, Joseph boasted to them about his dreams that one day he would tower over his brothers. They were resentful of him and so they plotted to kill him, but eventually sold him to the traders who brought him to Egypt. Over the next twenty years, he worked himself up. He became a favored slave of one of Pharaoh’s officers, Potiphar. He was wrongly imprisoned for having an affair with the wife of the Potiphar. Then while in prison, the jailor took a liking to him and they became friends. He interpreted the dream of the butler which came true, namely, that he would be released from prison and be restored to his former office. Two years later when Pharaoh had some unsettling dream which his magicians could not interpret, it was the butler who remembered Joseph and introduced him to Pharaoh. From then on, he was made second in command of the house of Egypt because of his wisdom. He interpreted the dream as a prediction of seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Hence, wisely and prudently, Joseph stored the grains during the years of plenty to prepare for the years of famine ahead. True enough, when famine struck Egypt and the surrounding countries, only Egypt had grain. Thus, all the peoples, even from other nations, turned to Egypt for help.
It is within this context that Jacob sent his ten sons to Egypt to buy grain, leaving his youngest son, Benjamin, behind. When Joseph saw them, he did not take revenge but only tested their sincerity to see if they were remorseful of what they did. He was not resentful of them. He could have taken revenge against them for what they did to him. He could have had them punished and sent to prison for attempted murder and lying to the father about his death, causing him grief for the last 20 years. But he did not. Instead, he forgave them and called them to him and said, “Come closer to me. I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt.” He still acknowledged them as his brothers even though they did not twenty years ago. He was a man with a magnanimous heart. For many of us, if we were in Joseph’s shoes, we would gladly see them suffer for their evil crime instead. But he did not.
What made Joseph forgive his brothers? He recognized the providence of God. He said, “But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.” He saw his trials as part of God’s plan for him to fulfill his role and the dream of being a ruler. The mistakes of his brothers were seen in the light of how God makes good out of evil. This is what St Paul himself said as well. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”. (Rom 8:28) From hindsight, he saw the hand of God in all that happened to him for his good. It was a necessary path for God to work His plans in making Israel a kingdom. It was what the Lord said to the apostles as well. “‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” (Lk 24:25-27)
When we recognize that what we are today is the result of God’s grace, then we should be thankful and not continue to hold grudges against those who have made our lives difficult. The obstacles they placed for us have been used by God as stepping stones for our growth and purification. The trials, instead of weakening us, have made us stronger. That is why, instead of feeling great about ourselves, taking pride in what we have achieved, we should be humbled that God has given us the grace to redeem ourselves through the angels and opportunities that He had sent to us along the way. Without His grace, we will not be where we are today. This is why the Lord told the apostles when they were sent out. He reminded them, “You received without charge, give without charge.”
Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus invites us to be messengers of peace and reconciliation. He told the Twelve, “As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you.” We are called to be healers and reconcilers. The physically and emotionally sick need healing, forgiveness and mercy. Those who are dead in sin and have given up hope in life because of loneliness and betrayal look for our understanding and our love. The lepers who are marginalized from society because of their past, their failures and sins are asking to be welcomed back to the community. Those who are misled by the Evil One and under the bondage of sin seek liberation and true freedom. For all of us, we are desperate to find peace in our hearts, a peace which comes from knowing that God has forgiven us all our sins and negligence and that we are loved unconditionally by Him.
But we can do this work only if we also trust in His divine providence. We must not take things into our own hands in the work of conversion but allow God to find ways to change the hearts of people. Hence, the Lord advised His apostles, “Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet. I tell you solemnly, on the day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town.” Let God deal with them!
On our part, we must rely on His grace alone. “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.” We must depend on Him and not on our strength and our efforts. We simply remain open to the grace of God that comes to us each day of our lives, inviting us to cooperate with His divine plan for us. When we remember the wonders of the Lord as the psalmist reminds us, we will have greater confidence in His divine plan for us. In this way, we will find happiness, peace and fulfillment.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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