Readings: Ezekiel 18:21-28, Ps. 130, Matthew 5:20-26

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

A few days ago, Jesus taught us to pray the “Our Father”, wherein He added: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive others’ sins against us.” Jesus quickly added, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.” Today, Jesus says: “Do not bring your gifts to the altar without first reconciling with anyone who has something against you.” Forgiveness is not an easy topic. We know forgiving is good, but the problem is “How?”

1. Be Like God – Constantly Die to the Past: The easiest way to forgive is to assume the past never existed. In today’s first reading, Ezekiel tells us this is exactly how God behaves. “If a wicked man turns away from all his sins, none of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him… but… when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, none of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered.”

God does not deal with us according to our past; rather, he relates with us according to our present (future potential). Has the past been painful? Then why are you still holding on to it? According to Elkhart Tolle, this is the insanity of humankind. If God completely forgets our past sins as though we never committed them, we must learn to relate with others as if they never offended us. The more we nurse our old wounds, the more difficult it becomes to let go.

2. Be Like God – Take No Pleasure in Your Offender’s Pain: Still in today’s first reading, God speaking through the prophet Ezekiel says: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” Another way we can trick our minds to forgive those who hurt us is by wishing them good. Jesus told us to pray for those who hurt us. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28). The more you wish them well, the easier to let go.

3. Remember You Are Not God – Examine Your Conscience: We often find it difficult to forgive others because we think we are guiltless. When you listen to two people quarrelling, each thinks the other person is a devil. Forgiveness begins with an honest examination of my conscience. If I had noticed the log in my eye, I would have seen that I could have avoided the problem or prevented it from escalating. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus said: “If your brother has something against you… go and be reconciled.” Jesus is not interested in who is wrong or who is right. As long as there is an issue, both sides have some share in the blame, and you (as a child of God) must be the one to initiate reconciliation.

4. Be The Bigger Man: Jesus began today’s Gospel passage by saying: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Christianity is a call to a higher way of thinking and behaving. Unfortunately, many of us are comfortable with being average (operating according to socially accepted norms). Going by street morality, forgiveness is a sin. Some parents will even beat up their children for coming home to report that a classmate beat them, and they did not fight back. Jesus calls us to be like big men; no matter how you insult them, they smile and walk away because they have more pressing issues to handle. You brush their car on the road; they tell you: “It’s nothing.” You may not be wealthy but can always ignore petty issues and disputes. Consider what you have lost as a gift to God; let Him reward you.

5. Watch Your Tongue: For Jesus, murder begins with anger. If you are angry with someone, you have already killed that person in your mind. St. Paul would say: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) Anger is not a sin but can lead to sins such as insulting others (or calling them fools). The best time to forgive is when you are conscious of your anger. When you feel your heart pounding, please zip up! Don’t say anything. Find somewhere to cool off; re-examine the situation. This way, your reasoning (not your emotions) will guide your actions.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to forgive. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Friday of the 1st week of Lent. Bible Study: Ezekiel 18:21-28, Ps. 130, Matthew 5:20-26).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu