The horrific, violent, and senseless murder of Eureka’s Father Eric Freed has left many of us very wounded, angry, and disillusioned, asking the question: what now?
There are those who in their anger want revenge or someone to blame. But, those of us who approach life with a sense of faith know that the only way forward and the only way to heal the wound is by way of forgiveness.
There is nothing wrong with being angry. This is one of those times when it is OK to be angry.
I am, in fact, very angry, for I have lost a brother priest to pure evil, but if I let this anger turn to hate or ill feelings, then evil gets the upper hand and that is why it is so important to listen to what the Bible says:
“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Hate is evil and comes from the evil force in our midst and hate destroys peace that comes to us with the gift of faith. The peace that a person of faith enjoys is an inner peace that liberates and frees a person to enjoy life even in the midst of unprecedented evil. This peace can only come if we chose the path of forgiveness — that is why Jesus teaches us to love our enemies.
Hate ensnares us and holds us captives as we boil away, allowing ill feelings to eat away our peace. Hate prevents us from enjoying life.
Jesus teaches us that if we want to be free we have to learn to forgive.
I know this very well from my own family experience, for I come from a broken home torn apart by hate and thus I know full well the extent to which hate can blind us as people.
My parents went through a very bitter divorce when I was a teenager, so much so that they openly proclaimed their mutual hate.
When I was about to be ordained, the bishop called to let me know about the ordination ceremony and naturally the first thing I wanted to do was call my parents to let them know when and where the ceremony would take place, and so I did.
I expected my parents to tell me something like: “How wonderful, we are so happy for you, finally you will not have to endure seminary food!” But no, what I heard from my mother was: “Is your father going to be there? Because if he is, I’m not going!”
I heard the same from my father, except he did not say “mother” but something I can’t put into print.
You see what hate does! Obviously, my parents love me but the intensity of the ill feelings they harbor blinded them and if you harbor ill feelings and do not learn to let go, the same can and will happen to you.
Hate destroys. Love, which flows from forgiveness, heals.
When I told the rector of the seminary about my family dilemma he told me not to worry, that we would separate my parents in the church, my mother would sit on one side of the church and my father on the other side of the church.
Can you imagine how I felt? All the other seminarians getting ordained had their family sit together but not me because hate destroys and divides, and this division prevents peace.
But, just to show you that evil and hate never win, at that same ordination ceremony I prayed and hoped for a miracle and got one; at the moment when the bishop proclaimed: “let us extend to one another a sign of peace,” my father left his side of the church and went over to my mother’s side and extended his hand in a gesture of peace.
Love always wins, for God is love and God is more powerful than any devil trying to inflict evil in our midst. Let God in and let God reign inside of you with his peace and let love win inside of you: forgive.
Father Adam Kotas is the priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Crescent City.