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. (Mt 5:23-24)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus spoke rather sternly about the need to be perfected. The Gospel opens with “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”
That sounds rather difficult.
As a matter of fact, it is.
The scribes and the Pharisees were experts in the law. They knew the faith inside and out. And they taught that faith and the laws of the faith rather boldly.
There was one problem, however: they often failed to live by the law that they taught.
Jesus wanted His people to know that they had to do more than know the faith or teach the faith. He expected them to live the faith. Just as He expects of us today.
One of the crucial challenges of the faith is forgiveness. Jesus wants us to forgive just as freely as He forgives. He even couched that in the Lord’s Prayer when He taught His followers to ask God to forgive them in the same manner that they forgive others — “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Implied in that is that if we do not forgive others, we cannot expect forgiveness ourselves.
Today’s Gospel reinforces that as Jesus reminds His followers that the gifts they bring to be sacrificed at the altar are useless if the people have animosity in their hearts. If they remember that they have something against another, they are to be reconciled first so that they may bring their gifts to the altar with a clean heart.
We are often not a people who forgives easily. We need to be.
FAITH ACTION: Is there someone in your life whom you find difficult to forgive? Make every effort possible to reconcile with that person.