Thursday, June 12, 2014

“If there is to be reconciliation, first there must be truth.”

'A man who has been assiduous in acquiring the fruits of love will not cease loving even if he suffers a thousand calamities. Let Stephen, the disciple of Christ, and others like him persuade you of the truth of this (cf. Acts 7:60). Our Lord Himself prayed for His murderers and asked the Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing (cf. Luke 23:34).' - St. Maximos the Confessor

Gospel Text: (MT 5:20-26)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother,
‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
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.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

It seems like we live in an age of anger. We hear the phrase and maybe even feel “road rage” as well as read about celebrities and other offenders who need “anger management.” So many situations today are causes or effects of anger: partisan politics, computer crashes, Boko Haram, airport security, inequality, umpires, Vladimir Putin, school shootings. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could, as the gospel recommends, let go of our anger and be reconciled with each other? We need to be peacemakers—on the personal and global level. We must release our rage or our need to win and embrace compromise, forgiveness, mercy. We must think of others with love and not think of them as Raqa, which in Aramaic means “imbecile.” (The wordsmith in me had to look this up!)

As always, the way to God–the way to follow the supreme commandment of loving God—is through one another and the second greatest commandment. In some respects, it is easier to love God, who isn’t trampling our petunias or invading our nation, than it is to love our neighbor. It seems simpler and less messy to approach His altar than it is to have a meal or negotiate a peace treaty with those who have offended us or whom we’ve offended. But Jesus is adamant. We must settle with our opponents before going to God. His allusions to the scribes and Pharisees, who were very big on the letter of the law and correct behavior, remind us that the spirit of the law is even more important. Our actions should be infused with a sense of love; our hearts should not be hardened. We must always aim for reconciliation because love of God and love of neighbor are inextricable.

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