Feelings Are Invaders
Twenty-Sixth Week of Year II Tuesday September 27, 2016
The Responsorial Psalm is a prayer from a man so “without strength” that prayer is all he has left: “Let my prayer come before you, Lord” (Ps. 88).
Job 3: 1-23 is a longing, not for death as such — no one wants that — but for death as an escape from pain. When Job “opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth,” he was expressing his feelings — just as Jesus did in his agony in the garden: “Father… remove this cup from me.”1 Neither Jesus nor Job turned from God with their wills, but both had human feelings not in harmony with the truth they believed in.
There is an important lesson for us in this. To establish the reign of God over ourselves or others, we do not have to make any feelings go away. For one thing, it is impossible. Feelings are not subject to our free will; therefore there is no moral value, good or bad, in any feeling or desire that we have. Until we choose to “adopt” a feeling, make it our own, give it permission to be in us, it is nothing but the effect of some cause, an uninvited intruder in our consciousness, and we are not in any way guilty for having it, any more than Jesus was guilty or less loving for wishing, on the feeling level, that he could just call off our redemption! His will never wavered; that is the important thing.
So whenever we have any intrusive thought, persistent temptation, obsessive desire or unwelcome feeling, we should never blame ourselves for it. Jesus, God himself, suffered the same thing in his human nature. We can try to distract ourselves, but whether this succeeds or not, we keep declaring our willed desire, our free choice, to God in prayer: “Let my prayer come before you, Lord.”
To do this is to let God reign over us. It is to exercise faithful stewardship over the life God has given us.
The problem is, we often choose to act on our feelings instead of just ignoring them. In Luke 9: 51-56 “the Samaritans would not welcome” Jesus because Jews and Samaritans were culturally hostile to each other. They followed their knee-jerk reaction to Jesus the Jew instead of getting to know Jesus the person.
James’ and John’s answering knee-jerk reaction was to “call down fire from heaven to destroy them” as Elijah did.2 But with Jesus things had changed, as the new “Elijah” who announced him discovered.3 Power and force are out; vulnerability and mercy are in. Jesus did not take the Samaritans’ reaction as their final choice. He would wait to reach them4 — as we must wait if we want to establish God’s reign in his way, not ours.
22Kings 1: 9-13.
3Matthew 11:14, 17: 12, 14: 1-12.
4John 4:39; Acts 8: 1-14.
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Follow faith, not feelings, in your choices.