24 Jul 2022
The Gospel. St. Matthew v. 20.
Jesus said unto his disciples, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca (worthless), shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire. 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. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
"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 away; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
When you think about it, this shows just how much God loves us. God worries less about the honor due to Himself; it’s the love towards our neighbor that is more important to Him. It’s not because He hates us nor that He wants to punish us that the Father is strict in such things, but because He truly loves us. What could be more reasonable than what He is saying here? "Let my service wait, so that your love for each other grows.” Because this is also a sacrifice, being reconciled to your brother.
Why? He wants to make sure we understand the necessity of reconciliation. The law as God sees it is this: I have charged you to not to offer anything to me before you are reconciled with those with whom you are angry. He expects us to do it, if not for the love of our neighbor, for our love for Him. He wants you to do away with all anger and hatred in your life. Certainly, don’t take communion until you get this done. By all this, God wanted to make sure we understand, that the altar of God doesn’t welcome those that are angry with each other.
We understand the different things which are sacrifices to God in our lives. Prayers and charitable works both qualify. God spoke through one prophet and said: "A sacrifice of praise will glorify me;" and again, "Sacrifice to God [is] a sacrifice of praise;" and, "The lifting up of mine hands is an evening sacrifice." So, if you are in the middle of saying a prayer, it would be better to stop and become reconciled to the other person, and then finish that prayer. This is why God became man, and did all the things He did, that He might see us at peace with each another.
In the Lord’s Prayer we say, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Jesus said, "If you are reconciled with the one you thought of as an enemy, through your love to him you will also make me happy and will be able to offer your sacrifice [to God] with great confidence.”
God isn’t qualifying this matter--even if it is just some trifle problem that you have with someone, or even if you feel totally justified in your resentment, you should not let the situation continue. Remember Jesus Christ was totally justified in being angry with all of us, yet nevertheless, He gave Himself up for us to be slain, not caring about our trespasses. This is the reason why Paul also, when urging us to reconciliation, said, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” During the day there are a lot of distractions, but in the night, when you are alone and thinking it over, the wave of emotion may swell up in you and convince you to hold a grudge and stay angry. To prevent this, Paul would rather you work through the cause of anger in the light of day and as quickly as possible. Jesus concluded, "Be not angry; and, revile not." In this way He sought to heal one dangerous source of our sins and set our lives on the right path to the Father.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins