years ago, if I were asked what epitaph I would like to have on my
grave I would have answered, 'he was a holy man,'" said Fr.Tony
De Mello a short time before his sudden death. "Later, I think,
I would have liked the words 'He was a good man,'" he went on
to say. "But now I know the epitaph I would like is 'He was a
free man.'" It is so hard to be really free. One of the most
subtle ways in which we lose our freedom is through our attitudes
to others. Others may hate us but they can do our inner selves little
harm. But if we hate them back we have given our freedom over to them.
today's Gospel Jesus enjoins his disciples to "love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for
those who treat you badly." Jesus does not ask his disciples
to fall in love with their enemies but rather not to let those who
hurt them control their behavior. Our instinctive reaction towards
those who hurt us is to hurt them back. Jesus says that we should
confuse such people by showing kindness to them. This may not be conventional
wisdom, but it is real wisdom.
and Jose approached a news-stand. Miguel greeted the newsman nicely
but got a very discourteous reply as the newspaper was shoved rudely
in his direction. Miguel smiled and wished the newsman a good day.
As they walked on Jose asked, "Does he always treat you that
rudely?" "Yes, unfortunately, he does," Miguel replied.
"Why then are you so kind to him and why to you continue to come
back to him?" asked Jose. "Because," answered Miguel,
"I do not want to allow him to determine how I feel and how I
act each day." Unfortunately, we often do allow others - and
most often our enemies - to determine how we feel and act. First of
all they hurt us and we then allow them to eat up our time and energy
as well. We often allow them to send our blood pressure soaring. It
is claimed that 70% of heart attacks are caused by anger. If you allow
someone to make you angry you are allowing them to control even your
the Gospel today Jesus enjoins his disciples to "love your enemies,
do good to those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly."
Jesus did not ask his disciples to fall in love with their enemies.
What he asked them was not to allow their enemies to determine how
they would behave. In fact, he enjoined them to keep their freedom
and confound their enemies by acting in a totally unexpected way,
by loving their enemies. This is the only way in which evil can be
controlled. This is not conventional wisdom but it is wisdom in action.
If we follow the way of Jesus we will keep our freedom, have better
health and probably be more successful in our work.
we are hurt we tend to bottle up our negative feelings. Then at the
slightest provocation these squirt out. Often the target will be a
loved one or a business associate different to the person who caused
the original hurt. When we hurt others in this way we add to our bad
feelings. The inner pressure gets worse, our fuses shorten, and our
unfree and inappropriate responses become more frequent. We may ask
God to help us, or pray for a miraculous cure, and when none seems
to be forthcoming we feel alienated also from God.
good news, however, is that there is a very simple way of prayer that
will help us to regain our freedom. It is the prayer of silence. In
this way of prayer we focus ourselves by repeating a single word or
phrase. When we do this we will soon find ourselves invaded by other
thoughts. These can be just fluffy superficial thoughts like clouds
passing over our minds. They can also be strong repressed emotions
striving to belch forth like lava from a volcano. In meditation one
notices the mind's wanderings but lets them go by. As one meditates
in this way for twenty or thirty minutes twice daily, a habit of self
observation is developed. Just as one notices the inappropriate thought
and decides not to be carried away by it, one also notices one's negative
feelings. There is a vital moment in which we can decide either to
be led by these feelings, or, to keep our freedom and take charge
of our own lives.