Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Today’s gospel passage (Matthew 5: 20-26) is pretty challenging as we read Jesus’ teachings to his disciples about anger. They know the command/law “you shall not kill” and now Jesus adds to that, “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….” He goes deeper into the heart where anger lies. Jesus wants more from his disciples than simply obeying laws and commands. He is challenging us to transform our hearts, our very lives.
It is not enough for us to follow the rules and rituals and attend mass each week, verse 23-24 says, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus is challenging us to make amends in our relationships where anger resides. Notice that verse 23 says that if “there you recall that your brother has anything against you,” not “if you have anything against your brother,” then go and be reconciled.
In other words, if someone is angry with me, has something against me, I still have the responsibility to reconcile that relationship. It’s not enough for me to wait for the other person to let go of their anger?! Maybe they’re angry because I have hurt them or done them wrong in some way. Jesus is challenging us to seek reconciliation. “I’m sorry, truly I am,” are not easy words to say. Neither is, “I forgive you” or “I’m sorry too,” but these are the healing words that we are called to as followers of Jesus.
Jesus sets this as a priority over offering gifts to God at the altar. And besides, what are the most precious gifts we can bring? Our humble hearts, our entire lives, our desire to be reconciled to each other and to God.
In today’s first reading (2 Corinthians 3:15 - 4:1, 3-6), Paul reminds us that “there is freedom” where the Spirit is and just as Paul was transformed by Christ we, as disciples, are “being transformed….” This call to reconciliation is a part of that transformation if we allow it. The Holy Spirit can bring light to what seems like the darkest of dark situations. I’ve seen it happen on more than one occasion. Maybe not a blinding light like the one that knocked Paul off his horse, but a light that gradually changes the hearts of one person and then the other until two that were enemies are now friends. Of course, even the closest of friends and most committed of spouses get angry with each other and have the opportunity to practice being reconciled many times over. And that’s what being a disciple is about.
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts….”(2 Cor 4:6) Let us pray that we may allow our hearts to be transformed and the light of reconciliation shine forth from the darkness of anger in our relationships this week.
- Eileen Millier