Reflections on Sacred Scripture

by Cyndi Cain

Love begins with reconciliation

"...go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."

Matthew 5: 24
      In the Gospel reading for Sunday (Matthew 5:23-24) Our Lord tells His disciples and thus us that "If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."

   How many of us go to Mass with a heavy, burdened heart. We lack interior peace. We know that there have been many times each day, each week, that we have somehow failed those with whom we live and share our lives, our work, our recreation. We have, in small ways or large, hurt others. This is one level of our burdened heart. The other level is the fact that we have been hurt, and sometimes that hurt is very deep, very real.

   Thus, we are distracted, concentrating, focusing on the hurt received or the hurt done to another, somehow wishing things were different, knowing they arenít, knowing that there are no immediate solutions to problems that have caused these various hurts, resentments, anger, frustrations and the like.

   In the Gospel, Jesus admonishes us to be reconciled first before we dare bring our gift to the altar. The gift He wants us to bring to Him is our heart, a gift that cannot be stingy, but must be complete. Without realizing it, we donít give to Him the fullness of our heart because we just canít bear the thought of giving Him our heart with all its unresolved hurts, etc. We hold back, and therefore we miss out on the essential element that Jesus wants us to understand. The frailty of human nature is such that even the most just man is going to fall every day, to fail God, to fail himself, to fail others.

   In very serious cases (mortal sin) it is absolutely necessary and not open to debate that the person who has committed this serious sin first go to the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is highly recommended by Our Lord and His Most Holy Mother that everyone of us should try to go to Confession every week, if at all possible, so that we have received Godís forgiveness and a heart overflowing with graces to offer to Him, Our Lord God and Savior.

   Now, you are at Mass and your heart is so heavy that it feels like it's going to fall through the floor and make a loud crash for everyone to hear. Is Jesus telling you to get up and leave the Mass, to rush headlong from the church to whomever it is we have offended or by whom we are offended? Only in case of serious sin would such a scenario be possible.

   Jesus wants us to understand that He provides the reconciliation through His Most Sacred Heart. We are caught up in emotions which span a wide spectrum of feelings, and those feelings last a long, long time. We know, in our heart and then in our mind, that we must forgive. We will to forgive, we seek to be forgiven with our heart in humble sincerity. That is the reconciliation Jesus asks of us, so that the fullness of our hearts might be His at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

   In this way, we are able to give Him our hearts, with the mess of confused emotions, the scars of so many hurts, and turn the whole ugly mess over to Him. Itís not like He doesnít know the mess is there! He wants us to know that He is All-Knowing and that Heís been waiting for us, for our hearts. Isnít it marvelous to realize, through faith, that if we have willed to forgive, and have sought forgiveness in humility, that God does take all our garbage and He turns it into His golden graces? These graces strengthen us for the day, for the week, for all the time that will pass before we are able to participate in Holy Mass and to receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

   He wants us all to recognize that the forgiveness He gives and asks us to give has nothing to do with "feelings", as long as we recognize the difference. Are we contrite? Are we humble? Do we acknowledge before God that we are sinners in need of His Merciful forgiveness? Then, my friends, you have no need to rush from the altar, for you have sought reconciliation. Go, therefore, in joy to receive Him, and be renewed, for that is what He will give to you, to all Who seek Him with Trust and Love.

   God asks us to love Him, but to do so fully, we must also love our neighbor - made in His image and likeness. Any barrier to that requires reconciliation before we can fully love.

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