As Mary sat in the back of church waiting to enter the confessional, she prayed, “Lord, help me to let go of my resentment of Rick.” Rick was her ex-husband, and someone who had hurt her deeply. A day hadn’t gone by in the 15 years since their divorce where she didn’t in some way think about the things he had done that hurt her so deeply.
Mary had once heard a priest say in a homily that you should pray for the person who hurt you and leave it at the foot of the cross. And she tried to do that. Whenever she would find herself remembering Rick’s “litany of wrongs” she would try to say a prayer for him. Yet, it didn’t give her much peace. And within a few hours she could feel the resentment building in her heart again.
So, Mary enters the confessional. She says, “Father, I must confess that I am here because I want to let go of a long-standing resentment that’s gotten the better of me. It’s been eating away at my soul and I can’t take it anymore.” Then she tells the priest how she feels about her ex-husband, what he’s done, and what it’s doing to her emotionally and, more importantly, spiritually. She specifically mentions how, when she finds herself going through the “litany of wrong-doing” she tries to say a prayer for him but that she’s still not feeling any peace.
The priest listens to everything she has to say, and then looks at her with very kind eyes and says, “Stop reciting that ‘litany.’ It’s only letting the unclean spirit deeper into your heart. Jesus has brought you here today to do something very powerful for you. He’s ready to remove this stubborn burden from your heart. So, stop putting barriers in Jesus’ way.
“As strange as this may sound, Jesus is asking you to take the risk and let go of what it is that you have gotten used to. There’s a certain comfort in hanging on to that resentment. I honestly think that you’re afraid that if you truly let go of reciting the ‘litany of Rick’s wrong-doing’ you will be empty. But the Lord will fill that emptiness and make you realize that you are loved, and that you can be healed, and feel peace. I believe that God is very active in your life and that he sees that you are now ready to be free from all this. You are already responding to His grace, or you wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
Today, Jesus rebukes the unclean spirits. He commands them to come out of the man in the synagogue, and this person is freed.
These unclean spirits….what are they, anyway? Well, they are the things deep inside us—-the hurts, the anger, the guilt, the stuff we’re not able to let go of. They are the regrets that we have, the bad decisions we made. They are the things that Jesus wants to remove from us.
Christ is saying: “Let the demons out of your system. I can help you to do that. I am active in your life and I want to give you the grace so that you can be whole again and live a more peaceful life.”
In the gospel, it says that “all were amazed” at what Jesus did for that person. We should be amazed, too, at what Christ wants to do for us!