|The Memorial of St. Anthony
1 Kings 18:41-46
Psalm 65:10, 10-11, 12-13
“…whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement.” Matthew 5:22
“…go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23
Jesus is trying to tell us that the commandment “Thou shall not kill” goes a lot deeper than just the act of taking someone’s life. It is in the heart that murder is first committed. Intention is what shapes the quality, the character and the morality of what one does in freedom. To hate someone is to be a murderer (1 John 3:15). When we no longer see a human being, or a group, or a class of people as images of God we are guilty of murder.
“Whoever is angry with his brother” (Matthew 5:22) allows a spontaneous aversion, irritation, or resentment to influence and to color his attitude towards the other. As anger continues its destructive work in our hearts it will soon find expression in our outward behavior. It will poison our thinking, our speech, even our surroundings. Abuse will follow, well rationalized, so that the abuse will appear as the due response to the alleged evil in the brother. As the voice of conscience is stifled so is the voice of truth, and it is easy to believe and perpetuate lies. The final step is when the brother is declared evil and treated as evil himself. Murder in all its forms then appears fully justified and the only right course of action.
This does not mean that we are to abdicate our moral judgement; this would be cowardly. We are fully justified in judging through truth and love what is visible, but we must leave to God the label of evil and condemnation itself. Otherwise we deny the possibility of our brother’s conversion and the victory of Christ’s all-inclusive love. He died for ALL; for all times.
To nurse our anger is to refuse to be reconciled. Sacrifice is meant to effect reconciliation (verse 23). If our heart is blocked, and we are unwilling to be reconciled, what use is sacrifice.
This reminds me of the Old Testament verse: “I desire mercy not sacrifice” (Hos 6:6). This verse was always interesting to me because it is God speaking and why would God require mercy from man! So what is the Lord saying here, He did not misspeak. Jesus makes it clearer today. “Be merciful to your fellowman, then you can give Me praise.”
Why is this so hard to do? Because we have to admit wrong, even if we do not think we were wrong. We have to set aside our pride. We have to put ourselves in the lower place. We can not be in control. What if the other person does not accept our apology? What if they do not want to reconcile? What if they sneer at us and further abuse us?
Yet, Jesus died for the victims and the executioners. He loved all men and commanded that we do the same. How is this humanly possible? In truth, it is not. We can only act contrary to our feelings and destructive inclinations or contradictory to all the pressures of society by the grace of God. Only the God-given power of hope for the other, for the enemy, rooted in the faith we have of God’s love for ALL and the fidelity of His love for us can we begin to truly desire, pray and work for reconciliation with our enemies and persecutors.
Blessed are the merciful…
Lord, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation, and delivery us from all evil. Amen.
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