Jesus continued, “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. It someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously”. (Luke 6: 27 – 30)
I once was fired from a job as a parish minister. The reason that the new pastor gave for my termination was that, after five years of ministry in the parish community, there was not enough office space for me. It was kind of a lame excuse – there were empty offices in the building. Nonetheless, June 20 would be my final day of service.
It was commonly agreed by most anyone you asked that I had done good work and won the trust and affection of the community. To this day, I do not know the real reason my contract was not renewed. But what I do know is that the work of forgiveness is not easy.
I soon landed a better job. I found a new community to serve and to love and I found fulfillment in living a vocation that I knew was mine. But the pain and the sting of losing something so dear remained. Over the years, I tried to forgive and I would sometimes even think I had moved on.
Then I would be fairly blindsided by resentment when I encountered that pastor.
I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I prayed for grace to forgive and see him as God sees. Over time, I have learned that is a process. And the gospel provides the ideal. “Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who mistreat you”. Some days I can do that, even easily. Other days, I have to start anew.