Matthew 5:43-45 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…
I’m sure we have all heard the cliché line that a counsellor or therapist might use: “How did that make you feel?” The popular theory is that if we can identify our feelings, we can communicate more effectively and our relationships will improve. To paraphrase a 60s pop song, society is hooked on feelings.
That is a far cry from what Our Lord calls us to in the Gospel reading above. Continual self-examination maintains the focus on self. This can lead to idolatry of the self. And when we idolize the self, contrary to popular wisdom, our relationships will suffer and die. Christ shows us a different way. While our feelings are real and are important gifts of God, we need to master them, and not have them master us. Little children are mastered by their feelings. If as an adult we have continued to be mastered by our feelings, our emotional lives are stunted. We see this played out in many adult lives—if it feels good, do it! Homes are broken, money is wasted on frivolous things, compassion is buried under a pile of refuse called entertainment.
Spending too much time focused on feelings can become like an addiction. A long time ago I was a volunteer victim’s advocate with the police department. I remember spending five hours one day with a woman who was in an abusive relationship. By the end of the day, I had become aware of the addictive nature of the emotional roller-coaster she was on. In her case, I could see that she and the abuser were each other’s drug. Society as a whole is riding that roller-coaster. Emotions are being used as a tool of the devil.
Conversely, God’s way is the way of peace. Jesus often tells us to go against our feelings. To do good to those who hurt us. To pray for them. This is the way of the cross, dying daily to self. It is the way of discipline, the way of the disciple. The way of penance. It does not mean we need to be doormats, but that we stop reacting to things, and start acting in the way of discipleship, using faith and reason to guide us, not our emotions.
In many cases our relationships are disordered. The one thing we need to do is to improve our relationships is to start with our relationship with God and allow him to set all our other relationships in order. We need to start by increasing our prayer and entrusting all our relationships to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
I will leave you with three passages on this subject from my prayer journal blog. The Lord has had much to teach me on this subject and so, out of my weakness, I have something to offer others. May God bless you all and lead you into his holy peace.
John 13:21…Jesus was deeply troubled…
“Child do you see the anguish I felt at the betrayal by one of my own? And later in the garden as I struggled to accept the Father’s will (Lk. 22:41-44)? Child, do not be surprised if these feelings overwhelm you at certain times. Your emotions are a special gift from the Father. They serve an important purpose. They can point you in a direction, but be aware child, that you must never be led by them. See them for what they are, but be led by faith and reason. One who allows herself to be led by emotion walks as a child (1 Co. 13:11-13). A sign of maturity is that one can master her emotions. So child, when I say ‘do not be afraid’, it is not that you must never feel fear, but that you must master it through faith and reason (1 Jn. 4:4). This is the way to peace. Shalom my beloved.”
Jesus I love you! Grant me every grace I need to master my emotions and walk in your everlasting peace. Amen.
Philippians 2: 14 Do everything without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…
“Beloved child take care not to lose graces through bitter complaining. If feelings of bitterness or resentment come, just bat them away like pesky flies. With an act of the will set them aside and make an act of trust in your loving Father through Jesus. This will surely put an end to any power these negative emotions would exert over you.”
Heavenly Father I repent of any bitterness or resentment, worry or despair. In you alone do I trust, through Jesus, beloved Savior of my heart. Cleanse me, heal me and in your mercy Lord, forgive my lack of faith and grant me every grace I need to more perfectly imitate Jesus your Son. Amen.
1 Corinthians 3: 3 While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way?
“Beloved, when these feelings overtake you, try your best not to let them control your actions. The feelings are one thing, coming unbidden, but the action may be controlled through discipline. It is this discipline, disciple, that will raise you above your lower nature where you are at the mercy of your emotions. It is slavery to remain so and not strive to overcome through discipline, your natural inclinations. Child, pray for grace and strength. Confess and be at peace.”
Lord Jesus, I repent of any feelings of jealousy or rivalry that I have allowed to rule me. You alone are my King. Grant me the grace, O Lord, to discipline myself in order to be freed from slavery to my emotions. Lord Jesus, have mercy! Amen.