For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us it is not enough simply to follow the commandments; even our thoughts and words will be judged. Anger in our hearts that spills out into malicious words or rumors offends the Lord. It kind of reminds me of my Mom’s oft-spoken advice “if you don’t have something good to say about someone, best say nothing!”
Upon further reflection, I was struck that Jesus calls for reconciliation from both sides of the conflict: “if you are angry with a brother or sister” and later, “remember that your brother or sister has something against you.” To Jesus, it does not matter who is responsible for the anger and insults, you “go first and be reconciled with your brother.”
So, it isn’t always about me and my sense of fairness, but more about becoming a catalyst for reconciliation and right relationship. Makes me want to sing, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts!”
—Vicki Simon is the director of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in St. Louis.
Loving God, as I journey through this Lenten season, help me to let go of negative thoughts and unkind words and arguments that end in “but it’s not my fault.” By reaching out and reconciling with my sisters and brothers, I can take the first step to reconciling with you.