Common sense tells us that hate poisons the heart and love purifies it. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel account that we are to love our enemies and this is one of the greatest challenges to authentic discipleship. Let the following story teach the lesson.
Two farmers, John and James, were good friends until a dispute arose between them over a piece of land. Unable to settle the issue among themselves, they went to court over it. The court decided in favor of John. James was bitter, and put poison in John’s well, not a fatal dose, but enough to give it an obnoxious taste.
John was very angry. His neighbors heard about it. Some refused to get involved. But others were supportive and declared that James should be made to pay for what he had done.
John was about to go by night and poison James’ well when a stranger arrived at his house. On hearing the story the stranger agreed that it was a pretty nasty situation, but he would not agree with retaliation. “Poison is not a thing to play around with,” he said. “I have a better idea. I will show you in the morning.”
His idea was to clean out the well and he offered to help. Reluctantly John agreed. It was a messy business and took them two days. Then they ran the fresh water through the well several times. Finally, the stranger took a cup of water, drank it, and declared that it was clean. John also drank from the well, but insisted that he could still taste the poison. To which the stranger replied, “Take it from me, the water is perfect. But you will continue to taste the poison until you do one more thing.”
“What is that?” John asked. “You must forgive your neighbor. You have got rid of the poison from the well, but not the poison that lodges in your mind and heart. Not until you let go of your bitterness, and forgive your neighbor, will the water taste right.”
That night John went over to James’ house and made peace with him. When he came back he tasted the water again. This time it tasted good!
Bitterness and hatred are dangerous things as they have the power to destroy a person. Jesus has shown us the better way, albeit a very challenging way. It’s difficult to love those who hurt us. But bitterness, resentment and hostility only hurt us all the more in return.
G.K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found hard and left untried.” Interesting thought to ponder this week.
- Fr. Dennis, February 19, 2017