Fr. Robert Bengry: Are you religious?

If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.
—James 1:26

Every Catholic will take responsibility for the things he says: now or on the dread day of judgement. What do your words say about you? How will the record read? Do your words express the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ or are they bitter ugly words? Do your words express the love of God or are they mean-spirited and full of pride?

Tomorrow’s epistle lesson for Trinity XIII comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter thirteen, verses eight to ten. It speaks about love, and how to love is to fulfil the Commandments.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

In many ways this just isn’t rocket science: you know when you’ve treated someone else poorly. You know when you’ve been mean-spirited. You know when you haven’t treated someone the way you’d like to be treated!

For some who abuse other people, it might feel good for a moment, but hurting other people doesn’t truly satisfy—it doesn’t feel good in the long run. For people like that, hurting others is akin to an addiction: it feels good on the surface, but it doesn’t last and doesn’t satisfy, so they need to do it again and again... and again. It’s the same with revenge: feels good for a moment, but it doesn’t really solve anything... revenge doesn’t bring wholeness and healing and joy. It doesn’t fix anything.

There’s freedom in escaping the cycle. There’s freedom in turning away from hurt and violence and a mean-spirited way of being.

Jesus says in Matthew, chapter five, verses thirty-eight to forty:  

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well...

This is admittedly easier said than done, but shouldn’t you try? 

Loving your neighbour, as Jesus commands, isn’t an optional part of being Catholic. It’s also not some kind of abstract notion. Love your neighbour as you love yourself... 


and herein is the problem: so many who hurt and seek to harm others do not actually love themselves. 

If that’s you. If that’s why you get pleasure and temporary satisfaction hurting others, ask God to heal you and to show you why you are a beloved child of God. As Him to bring healing and wholeness to your life so that you can bring healing and wholeness to other people instead of discord and sorrow, grief and violence. Turn away from those things: for your own sake—for the sake of your eternal soul.

— Fr. Robert Bengry 

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The photo above was taken as St. Thomas’ in the Anglican Diocese of Brandon. The parish (the oldest in the diocese) had come to ruin and became an hang-out for young people smoking pot out of the cold. Pages from the Bible were used to roll joints—it was a fire hazard and the vandalism was awful. Our little group of Religious were gifted by the Anglican Bishop the altar, baptismal font, and as many pews as we wanted for our chapel Holyrood; a special little place of prayer in Brandon, Manitoba. They are now housed at St. John the Evangelist in Calgary. Fr. Bengry

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The photograph: From the Robert Shane Bengry collection. Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.