A Gospel guide to reconciliation and forgiveness
A Reflection for Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
You can find today’s readings here.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.
If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
hen treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Today’s Gospel emphasizes the importance and healing of reconciliation and forgiveness. Matthew offers us a step-by-step approach to reconciliation, starting with a private conversation and moving on from there.
For me, this evoked memories of my 8-year-old son, who made his first reconciliation last February. He was instructed in a very detailed way on how to receive the sacrament (down to appropriate attire, including no sneakers!) which was certainly helpful to him and his religious education classmates who were apprehensive about confessing their sins.
The instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples, as well as the ones that were taught to my son, were not meant to shame or condemn the person asking for forgiveness but rather provide a guide for how to seek repentance and healing.
The instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples were not meant to shame or condemn the person asking for forgiveness but rather provide a guide for how to seek repentance and healing.
What we often forget is that healing is such a freeing product of forgiveness, so much so that as we pulled out of the church’s parking lot after my son’s first reconciliation he suggested that we receive the sacrament every week. True confession, his mother does not drive him to church every week for reconciliation, but I was reminded that asking for forgiveness from both God and others is a necessary aspect of leading a Christian life.
Sure, asking for forgiveness in a confessional or with a family member or friend takes courage and humility, but we must remember that Christ is always with us and fills us with grace especially as we seek reconciliation with love and a sincere, open heart.
It doesn’t matter what shoes we wear or the exact words we use to ask for forgiveness, as long as we remain open to regular reconciliation and to forgiving our brothers and sisters. In doing so, each of us grows closer to loving God through the healing aspects of giving and receiving forgiveness.