Bishop Gruss: People are not the enemy- hatred and the devil are the enemy

It was an extremely difficult letter to write.

Bishop Robert Gruss recently shared a story about forgiveness and the letter he wrote to his father decades ago. He told the story after First Friday Mass at the Cathedral on April 5.

"It all surfaced on a five day retreat while in the seminary in Rome," said Bishop Gruss. "To make a long story short, I wrote a letter to my father sharing with him my feelings, my hurts, my anger, all the while reaffirming my love for him in spite of the disease of alcoholism.

"I told him that I forgave him and in turn, I asked him for forgiveness for any time I failed to love him resulting from my anger and resentment toward him.

"Writing this letter was very difficult.  I agonized over it, not only from the standpoint of writing it, but from the standpoint of putting it in the mail, always wondering what would be his reaction.  Because this came through prayer, I put my trust in God that I was doing the right thing."

Bishop shared the above story as part of a presentation on "Forgiveness as the Heart of Christianity."  The presentation was part of the monthly gathering known as First Fridays (with Bishop Gruss at the Cathedral).

People are not the enemy

"It was very powerful," said Sarah Kozakiewicz, who traveled from Midland to participate in First Friday. "Bishop sharing his personal story was very touching. I realized what happens when we don’t’ forgive people. He made it clear that the enemy (Satan) is the enemy, not people."

Kozakiewicz was referring to how Bishop Gruss emphasized on multiple occasions that people are not the enemy. Referring to the devil, Bishop Gruss said, "The enemy is the enemy! Hatred is the enemy! People are not the enemy."

Sarah Kozakiewicz
Sarah Kozakiewicz, St. Brigid of Kildare Parish in Midland

Bishop went on to discuss the importance of forgiveness.

Although, Bishop Gruss' personal story included a great deal of pain, he also experienced tremendous healing with the help of a spiritual director during a retreat while he was a seminarian in Rome. 

"We never have to do these things alone," said Bishop Gruss. "God will provide the right people to help us.  We just have to ask and then trust.

"Part of the process was God inviting me to get in touch with the sinfulness of my own past life. In the end, as I finished this letter (to my father), offering and asking for forgiveness, the power of the Lord’s forgiveness and love overwhelmed me."

The devastating effects of unforgiveness

Bishop Gruss' presentation included quotes from scripture, several books and more, including a mention of the devastating effects of unforgiveness.

"Unforgiveness is the single most popular poison that the enemy uses against God’s people, and it is one of the deadliest poisons a person can take spiritually," said Bishop Gruss.

"Holding on to unforgiveness can lead to negative physical and mental health consequences and can also prevent personal growth and the ability to move forward in life spiritually and emotionally.

"Unforgiveness can block God from answering our prayers, as well as growing in the spiritual life, meaning growing in our relationship with God. To hold onto unforgiveness, diminishes our capacity to receive from the Lord. It greatly affects the flow of God’s grace in our lives.  And it is an impediment to God’s grace and healing," Bishop Gruss said. 

"The talk was very necessary, said Easton Urbanek, a parishioner from Our Lady of Czestochowa in Bay City.  "You could see the reaction from the crowd. We needed [this talk] for our own salvation. I was struck when Bishop talked about unforgiveness as being poison to us that can even affect our health." 

Easton Urbanek
Easton Urbanek, Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish, Bay City

Bishop Gruss finished his presentation by encouraging everyone to practice the art of forgiveness.

"How do we learn the art of forgiveness? By practicing it," said Bishop Gruss. 


Below are books that Bishop Gruss mentioned during his talk.

Bishop Gruss homily from First Friday Mass

    Bishop Gruss also shared a presentation on October 6, 2023 on "Your role and responsibility in the public sphere as Catholics". The presentation is below. 


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