Jesus: “Whoever is angry . . . will be liable to judgment. . . . and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (Matthew 5:22)
Me: Okay, Jesus, sure, but you don’t have to hang out with the knuckleheads in my house all day.
Seriously, this Gospel is a tough one to read. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s illusions of me or anything, but I get angry, and it’s almost exclusively at my family members. I think I manage to not call any of them names—out loud—but I can recall plenty of things they might have against me on any given day.
And isn’t that how it always goes? The people we love the most are usually the ones who can drive us the most crazy. The ones who can make us forget all those lovely resolutions from our morning prayers. But THAT is all part of the big plan for our sanctification. Because after Jesus gets our attention with the fiery Gehenna part, He gives us the solution: “Leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:24)
He doesn’t say we can’t GET angry at our loved ones. It’s that we can’t STAY angry with them. We can’t remain in that place, stewing in it, feeding it. We must humble ourselves. We must seek reconciliation. For the big things, that’s going to be a face-to-face talk where I apologize. I think it’s important, especially for moms, that our kids get to hear us say out loud that we’re sorry.
For the little things, where I know I’m just holding on to that bit of frustration or resentment, we have a system conveniently built right into the Mass. We recite the Lord’s Prayer, and ask God to “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Then we exchange the sign of peace. There I am in the pew, surrounded by all my near occasions of sin whom I love so much, and I can look them each in the eye and kiss them peace. I can forgive them and be forgiven, and be reconciled to them, and then approach the altar to receive the Eucharist.
And I can do it all over again the next week (or the next day) as needed. I just love it when a plan comes together.
Whom do you need to forgive? Write that text or email, pick up the phone or pen. Do it today.
Kendra Tierney is a forty-one year old mother of nine and wife of one living in and working on a big old fixer-upper house in Los Angeles. She's a homeschooler and a regular schooler and is counting down the days until her oldest turns sixteen and can take over some of the driving! Her new book about living the liturgical year in the home is in the editing process. You can find her first book, A Little Book About Confession, here, her blog here, and her word art here.