Daily Reflection
March 24th, 2000
John Fitzgibbons, S.J.
English Department
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Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-18
Psalms 105:16-21
Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

I find it fascinating to pray with my temptations.  It's a habit I've learned from my friend and Jesuit brother, Father Larry Gillick.  Temptations -- even garden variety temptations -- certainly can be interesting in themselves but the real interest, the heart-felt fascination comes along after they are over, when I am alone with God...and my temptations.  In a sense, there is grace to be received in praying with my temptations whether or not I have given in to them.  Now, I find that a marvel! 

Take for instance the temptation to hate another person.  In Genesis, Joseph, the last son of Jacob, seems a person easy to hate.  It's easy to see why Joseph's brothers, Reuben and the rest, hated him so much.  After all, here is the youngest, the least productive, the smart aleck kid who is the apple of his father's eye.  No matter how hard the other brothers work, they will never be doted on like Joseph!  He gets the fancy coat; he has his father's ear; he is the favorite. 

The brothers, green with envy, want to kill the boy.  But Reuben, the eldest, the one who must protect all the brothers, the one who has most to lose in Jacob's preference for Joseph, has a twinge of conscience.  And so, selling Joseph into slavery, the brothers move on with their lives.  Probably for some years the brothers thought, "Well, it was tough to see Old Jacob grieve but, geez, that kid was a royal pain!  He was just so obnoxious!  It's good we're rid of him." 

Jesus talks about a similar situation in today's gospel reading in Matthew.  Not only are the long line of prophets, the messengers of God, rejected but the beloved Son is rejected, indeed killed, as well. 

Now for the temptation: I've run into lots of folks that, if I haven't really wanted to kill, I have wanted to marginalize, put down, discredit, or move out of my way.  It's embarrassing but true.  While not a violent person, it's easy to hate what seems obnoxious to me. 

To pray with my temptation to hate is like an oyster with that irritating grain of sand in the soft, fleshy interior.  Once that obnoxious bit of sand gets in there, I have to make a decision: I can let the sand lacerate my very being or I can turn the sand over and over, coating it with my essence, seeing the irritation for what it is and then turning it, not the other person, into a jewel, something precious, something holy. 

In the end, love is much more a choice than ardor.

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