Select Sunday > Sunday Web Site Home > Spiritual Reflections > Glancing Thoughts
Glancing Thoughts
Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 12, 2018
Eleonore Stump

Grieving God

In the Second Reading, Paul warns people not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. It is a sad thing to grieve your mother or your best friend. It is really dreadful to grieve God himself. How does a person manage to do such a lamentable thing?

You grieve God when you engage in malice, Paul says. Now malice is the opposite of love. To love someone is to want the good for him and to want to be united with him, too. So you can be malicious by refusing either of these desires of love. If you want what is bad for another person, or if you utterly reject another person, you are malicious with regard to him.

If you are bitter, you are malicious; and when you are malicious, you are opposed to love.
So you don’t have to engage in murder or theft or adultery to grieve God. As the Second Reading implies, you can grieve God just by reviling another person. You revile a person when you say bad things about him, to his face or behind his back, just for the sake of putting him down. When you do this, you take a kind of perverse pleasure in his badness. That is why reviling is malicious. It is the opposite of love’s desire for the good of the other.

Bitterness is on Paul’s list of ways to grieve God, too. A bitter drink is one that has no sweetness in it; it just sets the drinker’s teeth on edge. Your heart and mind are bitter if you are focused largely on the bad in things, and that bad-tempered focus of yours sets everybody else on edge as they try to tiptoe around you. You can’t want the good for others if all you can see is the bad in them. And you can’t want to be united with them either if your bitterness blocks joy in you.

If you revile others, if you are bitter, you are malicious; and when you are malicious, you are opposed to love. But God is love, and it isn’t possible for there to be union between God and what is opposed to God.

Your malice grieves God, then, because he has lost you when you are malicious; and, for God, your loss is worth grieving. 

It’s a sobering thought to be so loved, isn’t it?

Eleonore Stump
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go http://www.ltp.org