Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Our Lord can say some very difficult things at times. Listen to what He tells us.
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
We know that hatred of other people is something that will indeed bring us closer to Hell than to Heaven. We also know that human relationships are complicated, difficult to manage, and desperately infuriating. There are times when the thought of a certain individual or individuals causes much emotional upheaval. Yet the Lord bids us to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Yet that's not what He's quite saying here. Who's the one who has been offended? If you listen carefully, you'll hear.
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee.
It is when we know that our brother has got something against us, not we against our brother. If we suspect that we have offended someone, then we have to sort it out. We have to seek reconciliation from our hearts. Not superficially. We have to want to be reconciled. Just as we tend to hate people only in our hearts, think them fools, imbeciles, and the lowest of the low, so in our hearts we must turn. How important is this?
Our Lord says, " Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." It's so important for us that God would forego our honouring Him in order to be reconciled with anyone we have hurt. We have to prefer our neighbour's welfare above The Mass!
Really? We have to worry about earthly things before meeting the Great God of the Universe in the Sacrament?
God does not need our worship. What He wants is us to be reconciled with each other as well as Him. If we can't be reconciled over earthly matters, how can we expect to be reconciled with Him Who knows our sins in every horrid detail?
Our Lord's whole life has been one of reconciliation of Humanity with God. Thus our worship of God must begin with a fervent, and active desire to see the people we have hurt and to put things right. This is why there must always be a confession of sins before Mass. Our worship means less than nothing if we don't.
Less than nothing? Yes. For without recognition that we need to be reconciled with our neighbour, our offering becomes as unworthy as Cain's and that whole affair ended with Abel's blood on Cain's hands.
Reconciliation is not easy at times, but it must begin in the heart. We should say sorry to God for each time we harbour evil thoughts against our neighbour. If we are true in our resolution to love our neighbour as ourselves then that is enough. We may not be properly reconciled in this life, especially when the other person has seriously hurt us. However, the closer that Christians get to Christ, the closer we get to each other. Reconciliation then becomes almost automatic and unavoidable.
It is possible that our worst enemy gets to Heaven with us. How will we cope with that thought?