Father Joe Krupp is one of the most popular columnists in FAITH Magazine, the official publication of the Diocese of Lansing. He is also the pastor of Holy Family in Grand Blanc and Saint Mark in Goodrich. His “In the Know with Father Joe” column has attracted FAITH readers for over 20 years with its blend of advice, canonical explanations and the author’s trademark humor.
In the latest edition of the magazine, Father Joe is asked: “Is it a sin to have an evil thought, such as, “I really wish ill on the person who did me wrong”?” Father Joe answers:
Well, it can be. Random thoughts pop in our heads; we have little control over that. It’s our response to those random thoughts that define the rightness or wrongness of it. One of the things I love to think about in these situations is how God’s mastery over evil is so complete that he can even use moments of temptation to make us saints. Because of God’s victory and mercy, every thought can be an invitation to virtue or vice.
I have a busy brain and it’s not uncommon that when I am praying, past wounds and those who have wounded come to mind. I even have a person in my past who, when they come to mind, I struggle. I want vengeance. I want them caught. I want redemption for the lies they spread about me in order to cover their evil. I pretend I want justice. But the fact is, I do not want justice: Justice lands me in hell.
I have been a priest for 25 years and during that time, I know I have hurt people unintentionally. I know I am, more than likely, someone’s ‘story’. What I want, what I long for when I think of that, is mercy, not justice.
If I want that for me, I must want it for them.
I have never and will never experience what Jesus did on the cross; no pain or sorrow in my life has even approached the physical, emotional and spiritual pain of that event. When he experienced it, his response was to seek forgiveness for those who were inflicting that torment on him. That is mind-blowing to me and a clue as to how God wants me to be.
When I experience the unbidden thought or even the fantasy of the person or persons who hurt me getting their “just deserts,” I try to remember this and pray it into my feelings. I try to take what I feel to the classroom of my mind and educate it.
I then am led to pray for God to forgive them, heal them and get them home to heaven someday. Thus, by God’s grace, I am able to take an awful invitation to vengeance toward an experience of humility (remembering I’ve hurt people), mercy (I can’t believe how merciful God is) and love (the root of it all).”
This process will need to be repeated often. Forgiveness and healing tend to be processes, not moments. We can help God move that process along by constantly giving our thoughts and feelings to him. “Jesus, I give you this feeling;” “Jesus, I give you this thought.”
The older I get, the more I see the importance of vigilance in regard to my thoughts. I see what St. Paul meant when he told us to ‘take captive every thought.’ The battle in our mind is real and God wants our mind consecrated to him, along with our heart, our soul and our strength.
I pray Jesus bless all of us and help us to be merciful, like he is merciful.