Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 12, 2018)

In today’s first reading, St. Paul begs us to exchange our life of anger and malice for a life of kindness, compassion and forgiveness that mark us as the children of God. St. Francis de Sales tells us how to move from anger to kindness or gentleness:

One of the best exercises in gentleness that we can perform is with ourselves. To allow gentleness to reign in our hearts we must not fret over our own faults. While reason requires that we be displeased and sorry when we commit a fault, we must not keep our hearts drenched in bitterness and spitefulness that spring from our self-centered love, which is disturbed at seeing that it is imperfect. This constrains our ability to love.

All angry people think their anger just. Believe me a father’s gentle, loving rebuke has far greater power to correct a child than rage and passion. So too when we have committed some fault, if we rebuke our heart with more compassion for it than passion against it, repentance will penetrate more effectively. If we fall into anger let us say: “Alas my poor heart, here we are, fallen into the pit we were so firmly resolved to avoid! Well, we must get up again and leave it forever.” With great courage, confidence and trust in God’s mercy return to the path of virtue. When your mind is tranquil, build up a stock of gentleness. Speak all your words and do all your actions in the mildest way you can. Remain in peace. No one is so holy as not to be subject to imperfections.

However, we are called to practice the freedom of the children of God who know they are loved. They freely choose to follow the known will of their heavenly Father who nourishes them with the Bread of Life, his Son Jesus. We must walk on then, as brothers and sisters united in gentleness, compassion and forgiveness. God always loves us even in our weakest moments. We, too, must do likewise, first with ourselves than others.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)