Our Gospel reading for today is so long that the homilist has the option of choosing a shorter version, which means that you might not hear the following: “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you… go first and be reconciled with your bother, then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). We can’t truly worship God if we bear rage or hatred toward another person. Although I’ve never hated another person, there are definitely people I never want to see or speak with or interact with in any way ever again, which is why I’m deeply grateful for the witness of one of my closest friends. Let’s call him “Dave.”
A few days before Christmas Dave went to a local grocery store in search of a decorative wreath for his mom. As he was standing outside the store appraising the wreaths, a manager stepped into the store entranceway and watched him. Dave asked, “Can I help you?” The manager replied, “No,” but kept watching him. Dave then asked, “What are you doing?” The manager replied coldly, “Watching you.” Dave, who is Caucasian, had that sensation that people of color must have in such moments. Enraged, Dave berated the manager who only yelled back. Fuming, Dave left. Alongside his rage, however, was regret. When he looked at how he had acted, he didn’t like what he saw. The next day Dave went back to the store, found the manager, and apologized. The manager then also apologized and explained that there had been a sharp increase in thefts at the store.
Reconciliation is not always so straightforward. Systemic racism, sexism, and the like take years to overcome and require the participation of whole communities, whole nations. At other times, though, reconciliation is comparatively easy. We simply choose to admit our part in a conflict and to seek forgiveness. The other person might not forgive us, but we will at least have tried. When next we approach the altar, seeking union with our God of mercy, our attempt at reconciliation is a gift God will accept.
Click here for a link to the Sunday readings: Feb. 16 (usccb.org)
Click here for my questions and commentary: Study Guide for Feb. 16