First Reading: Sirach 27:30-28:9
The Price of Hatred
What is the personal cost of holding onto hatred?
30 Wrath and anger, these also are abominations,
yet a sinner holds on to them.
1 The vengeful will face the Lordís vengeance;
indeed he remembers their sins in detail.
2 Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
3 Does anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
4 Can one refuse mercy to a sinner like oneself,
yet seek pardon for oneís own sins?
5 If a mere mortal cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
6 Remember your last days and set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
7 Remember the commandments and do not be angry with your neighbor;
remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults.
8 Avoid strife and your sins will be fewer,
for the hot-tempered kindle strife;
9 The sinner disrupts friendships
and sows discord among those who are at peace.
New American Bible Revised Edition
Jesus ben Sirach wrote this book of wisdom about 180 B.C. This book (also known as Ecclesiasticus) was a text for the education of wealthy young men in Jerusalem just before the Hasmonean revolution (167-164 B.C.). Sirach revealed the tensions in the city: the rifts between rich and poor, between the local populace and their foreign rulers, between male and female. How does a righteous Jew live in such a culture of tension?
Maintaining friendships would be especially difficult in this environment. The temptation to "sell out" a friend for gain was great. But the repercussions would be greater. For example, slander injured the victim, the slanderer, and the person who believed the lie. In such an atmosphere, how does one repair damage?
Sirach proposed a simple, but radical solution: forgiveness. There was no way around the gossip, the backstabbing or the slander. Living inevitable led to hurt. So, the person faced two choices, react to the sin at the level of sin or forgive. Become part of the problem or rise above with the solution. If the believer wished mercy from God, then he should act as the Lord acted.
The sage reminded his reader that life was short; the believer should consider the coming end. That should be motivation enough to set aside enmity and seek the peace that came from forgiveness.
Life isn't perfect but it can be lived in relative peace, only if the living make it so. Yes, forgiveness is difficult, but not impossible. And the alternative is much worse.
Name one person in your life you can forgive today. Resolve to forgive that person everyday until you forget to pray for them. Then you will know that you have done so.