Gospel text (Mt 5,20-26):
Jesus said to his disciples, «I tell you, then, that if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past: ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial’. But now I tell you: whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council; whoever calls a brother or a sister "Fool" deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell.
»So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God. Don't forget this: be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny».
We don’t become Christian on a single day. Neither can it possible to establish a good relationship with God by few meditations and contemplations. It takes years. For some privileged people, God does grace them with immediate conversion and holiness. For all, we are all pilgrims, walking together towards the perfection of holiness.
Thus, it’s quite normal that every day we fall and get up, struggling every moment to keep this momentum going. We can’t afford to sleep, because our enemies work very hard to put us down. Since God doesn’t desire the death of an evil person, rather his conversion, we can’t get into conflict and quarrels for little matters, rather work for peace and reconciliation. We have to learn to go beyond the established rules and regulations, because we are children of God, not of this world, though in this world.
In this Lenten season Jesus invites us to imitate His Father, who is filled with love and compassion. It is in this love and compassion that Jesus is asking us to leave everything that we reserve for God, if we are not able to without establish a healthy relationship with our brothers and sisters, including our enemies. Since we are His children, we can’t act in an ordinary manner.
Action of the day: Forgive one person.
«Leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him [your brother]»
Fr. Thomas LANE
(Emmitsburg, Maryland, United States)
Today, the Lord challenges us to convert as He speaks about what goes on in our hearts. The commandment says «Do not commit murder» (Mt 5:21), but Jesus reminds us that there are other ways of killing life in others. We can kill life in others by harboring excessive anger towards them in our hearts or not treating them respectfully and calling them “Fool” (cf. Mt 5:22).
The Lord calls us to be people of integrity: «Leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him» (Mt 5:24), i.e. the faith we profess in our celebration of the Liturgy should flow over into our daily lives and affect how we live. So Jesus asks us to be reconciled with our enemies. A first step along the road to reconciliation is to pray for our enemies as Jesus requested. If we find this difficult it is good to remember and picture in our minds Jesus dying for those whom we dislike. If we have been seriously hurt by others let us pray for healing of painful memories and the grace to forgive. As you pray, ask the Lord to walk back in time with you to the time and place of the hurt and replace your hurt with his love so that you may be free to forgive.
As Pope Benedicyt wrote, «we cannot communicate with the Lord if we do not communicate with one another. If we want to present ourselves to him, we must also take a step towards meeting one another. To do this we must learn the great lesson of forgiveness: we must not let the gnawings of resentment work in our soul, but must open our hearts to the magnanimity of listening to others, open our hearts to understanding them, eventually to accepting their apologies, to generously offering our own».