By Ken Asel
Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, 5:21-26
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
Even in quiet times of reflection it can be difficult to acknowledge our failures before God. Rapidly, excuses can appear in the form of “but what about…”, which can linger for a long time. I have noticed that when I pray the Daily Office, the process of contrition and examining my sins often gets replaced with deflecting blame toward others. The internal conversation can sound something like this: “I wouldn’t have responded the way I did if _____ hadn’t said ______, or done _____, which was so egregious. The blame is really theirs, not mine.”
In our gospel reading, we are transported to the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus reminds us that the obligation for reconciliation resides always with both parties. Blame and justifying our behavior, more than anything distorts our vision, to the point of corrupting our hearts. Accusation toward the one who is the source of our anger tarnishes our ability to remember who and whose we are. N.T. Wright put it this way, “Be reconciled; Make friends.”
Not every relationship can or should return to what it was. Some are harmful and should be avoided. But unforgiveness and hardness of heart poison both perpetrator and victim. Whoever we are, God expects us to initiate our own side of those precious requirements that restore relationships and bind up wounds.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name, Amen.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married more than 28 years and reside in the Texas Hill Country.
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