The title of my last homily was “Where have all the demons gone.” In the readings for that Sunday, the apostles were upset because there are others outside of the chosen few who were claiming to cast out demons in Jesus’ name. It occurred to me that there seemed to be demons on every street corner in the New Testament.
Not so much today so it begs the question- Where have all the demons gone?
I told the story of my friend Gordie, who after spending a lifetime (30+ years) in prison still lived in a prison even though he was a free man at the time of his death in June of this year. He was a prisoner of the demon called shame.
Today I would like to continue to wonder about “where have all the demons gone with Part 2” (there may be a part 3) and for a sub-title, I have gone to one of the great theologians of our time and borrowed a line from her.
The theologian is the modern-day prophet Taylor Swift. If you are older and not familiar with Taylor Swift, then ask one of your kids or grandkids to clue you in.
In her song- Shake it Off – which is primarily about how to deal with bullies and negative people she wrote a quite profound line when she announces that “the haters are gonna hate.”
Hate is an outcome. One of the demons who reaps a bountiful harvest of hate is the demon called resentment.
One of the reasons it is so hard to see the modern-day demons is that they are very clever. The devil called “Resentment” can enter a person’s heart in so many different ways and for a variety of reasons.
There are many examples of the pain and sorrow resentment can bring. Adolf Hitler was a raging ball of resentment, which led to a hatred of the Jews so powerful that it left 6 million of our Jewish cousins dead; 60 million perished world-wide, and much of Europe demolished.
Closer to home I have talked to a number of people over the years that are so filled with resentment toward a spouse or family member who has hurt them that it is literally destroying any chance, they may have to live a peace filled, happy life.
Several years ago, I was invited to attend a Restorative Justice Conference in Los Angeles. On the opening night of the gathering, the keynote talk was given by two grandfathers. They were from completely different backgrounds, and it was a shared tragedy that would bring them together on this stage that night.
George (not his real name) was so proud of his young teenage grandson. He was smart and had a promising future of college ahead of him. Not afraid of hard work the young man took on a part-time job of delivering pizzas.
Juan (not his real name) was also proud of his grandson, but he knew this child had a difficult road ahead of him. Things were not easy for him at home and he reached out to others his age and joined a gang- it was a family that would accept him but there was a catch. This young teenage boy had to prove he was worthy to be a part of the group.
One night the paths of these two boys crossed, and their grandfather’s lives would be changed forever.
As part of the gang initiation the one grandson had to rob/ perhaps kill (I can’t remember the full details) someone and a pizza delivery person was a perfect target. Whatever took place that night the result left to one grandson dead and the other in prison for life with no chance for parole.
In our first reading today, which is from Isaiah’s description of the “Suffering Servant,” there is a powerful line that describes what happened next in both the grandfather’s lives:
Time will not permit me to go into all the anguish that filled both men’s lives in the aftermath of this horrific event. There were times of great sorrow, anger and yes the demon of resentment.
George whose grandson was murdered was the prime target for the demon of resentment but the other man whose grandson was now a branded murderer was also fertile ground for the devil to plant his seeds which when fully grown often results in hate.
Resentment is defined as a mixture of disappointment, anger and fear. It is a deadly cocktail for one’s soul.
George and Juan chose a different path. They got to know each other through the months that followed. There was a long and painful trial. Their journey to friendship was both difficult and unlikely.
George eventually chose to forgive, really forgive, this young boy, who is now a fully grown man in his late 30’s, for taking the life of his dear grandson.
We may wonder how such forgiveness is possible. Some of you may actually view this act of forgiveness as a betrayal on George’s part as he embraced the boy who ended his loved one’s life.
George found a different path out of his anguish; he chose to see the light. It was the offering of forgiveness and the taking of the extra step of reconciliation that freed George from living his remaining years filled with resentment which is that deadly mixture of disappointment, anger and fear.
Today George works closely with Juan and is trying to get Juan’s grandson released on parole. George has offered this young man, a job and a chance to restart his life.
I have heard it said that 75% of all the teachings of Jesus can, in one way or another, be brought back to the topic of forgiveness.
Jesus is to this day the wisest of teachers. He knows that the devil works in devious ways and that our inability to forgive ourselves leads to the demon of shame controlling our lives. Our unwillingness to forgive others opens a space in our hearts for the devil to plant the seeds of resentment which results in creating haters and as Taylor Swift reminds us “Haters are goanna hate”.
If we truly want to go in peace when this mass is ended, we need to find a way to glorify the Lord with our lives.
One of the most difficult ways to do this is also one of the simplest. When we are suffering and in deep pain, we can choose to come out of our anguish and walk towards the light. It is in this light, which is fueled by the healing powers of forgiveness, that the demons of shame and resentment cannot live.
Casting out the demons of shame and resentment will allow us to follow Jesus on the road to inner peace that He has built for us.