Jonah (star of the “Jonah and the Giant Fish” saga in the bible) is the quintessential wimp and drama queen. He runs away from God’s voice like the cowardly lion from Oz, hoping that he can escape the call to convict the entire city of Ninevah (capital of Assyria) of their sin in order to lead them to repentance. But Jonah is not a fan of the Ninevites. They are mean people. Imagine Gotham City people—corrupt, immoral, evil—and then imagine no indoor plumbing, and you have the Ninevites. Jonah, as a Jew, wants God to give these pagans what they deserve. He wants God to smite them with His all-powerful arm and turn them into a pillar of salt like that dude’s wife back in the day. When the city does repent and God shows them His mercy and graciousness, Jonah whines like a little kid whose parents won’t let him go to space camp for the summer, but send his friend instead.
Jonah, like many of us, does not love as God loves. Jonah, in his concupiscence, does not want the best for these people, but wants them to get what they truly deserve. And Jonah was not even personally close to these people! How hard is it, then, for us to love and want the best for those who have hurt us, especially if they are close to us? What about those who have abandoned us? Betrayed us? Abused us? Well, without God, it is impossible. But with God, all things are possible (Mt 19:26), and we can do ALL things because He gives us the strength (Phil 4:13).
In our humanness, we want to hate and hold grudges, gossip and compare, wish harm and get revenge. Since not all of us are as naturally virtuous as St. Therese of Lisieux, who purposely showered her “enemy” with as much love as possible, what can we do? The first step is to pray for the people who have hurt us or those we can’t stand. Why? Well, for starters Jesus told us to (Mt 5:44). Secondly, because prayer will not only affect that person, but even more will transform us. If we pray for humility for that person, we, in turn will also become humble. (I personally think praying for “humility” is the best “revenge” prayer.)
Next, we must forgive. Not seven times, but seventy times seven times. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God’s compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus” (2844). Maybe we’ve been told, “Forgive and forget,” but the truth is, “it is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC 2843).
If we want to truly be Christians–“Little Christs”—we must be merciful as God is merciful and forgive trespasses as God forgives ours. Love will conquer all.
“Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” – Romans 12:21
“Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.” – 1 Peter 1:22
“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God* whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” – 1 John 4:19-21