Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO
1st Friday of Lent
Ez 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26
Forgiveness and reconciliation are such important things. A lot of the world’s wars and conflicts could have been avoided, a lot less blood would have been spilled, if people would have worked harder at forgiveness and reconciliation.
In our first reading today we heard how quick and eager God is to forgive and reconcile his human creatures:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him.
And in our responsorial psalm we heard the beautiful words of Psalm 130:
If you, O Lord, mark iniquities,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
For with the Lord is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
But it’s not just a matter of God granting forgiveness and reconciliation to us. We, in our turn, have to show it to others. If there are any rifts between us, we have to do all in our power to heal the breach. In fact, God is much more concerned about unity among his children than the gifts and sacrifices we offer him. For, in today’s gospel reading we heard:
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.
When our Lord’s disciples asked him to teach them to pray, he gave them the words of the Our Father. And in Matthew’s Gospel he sums up this prayer with what he considers to be the most important theme in it:
If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. (Mt 6:15)
Forgiveness is tough. It takes hard work and a lot of effort. It seems to go against our nature – we want to cling to our bitterness and resentment. But in the long run our lack of forgiveness ends up hurting us more than our offender. Our anger and hate and rancor are like a toxin in our system. In an email yesterday, there was a quote from Buddha, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; YOU are the one who gets burned.”
Most of the time we cannot bring ourselves, with our own power, to forgive and be reconciled. It takes the grace of the Holy Spirit. That grace is always there for the asking. And the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are oh so willing to grant that request. Let’s make this Lent a time of forgiveness and reconciliation. It will yield rich dividends this Easter in peace and joy.