I tell you, if your sense of right and wrong is not keener than that of the Lawyers and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
You have heard, that it was said to our people in the past: Do not commit murder; anyone who murders will have to face trial. But now, I tell you: whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister is liable, to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or sister “Fool!” is liable, of being thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there, in front of the altar; go at once, and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God.
Don’t forget this: be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There, you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.
There is something quite remarkable in the words of Jesus as we hear them in today’s gospel reading. There Jesus imagines a mini-drama going on in someone’s mind—let us call him Shimon. Well, Shimon has decided to bring a young lamb to the temple and there to offer it in thanksgiving for the birth of a healthy son. However, on his way to the temple he suddenly remembers that his neighbor, Dan, gave him the cold shoulder that morning by not reacting to his greetings. Obviously Dan has some grievance against him. What is it? Shimon has no idea. What to do now?
Well, Jesus tells him, forget about the temple offering. What is more important than rituals is the moral life (“do good and avoid evil”). Go first and mend your fences with Dan. Make peace with him first. That is much more important than any liturgical action. Once you made peace with Dan, then you can take care of your offering.
Few Christians understand this. They think that the Mass is more important than relationships. It is not. The love of neighbor will always be more important (and much, much more difficult) than going to church.
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