Reconciliation. It was the reason for the Incarnation. It is the centerpiece of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. And it is the one and only thing that can bring about all that we most desire as human beings: peace, justice, mercy, and right relationships. It is the principal instrument of love between God and ourselves, and between ourselves and all others. It is the the attitude of healing. It binds up that which has been broken. It is our greatest need, both relationally and spiritually. It is Love in action. It is the source of true happiness. There is no greater power on earth. It is the key to heaven. Reconciliation.
ʺJesus 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, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.ʺ (Matthew 18: 15-20)
Who among us has not been guilty of having injured another with our words or our deeds? Who among us has not experienced the desperate pain caused by unjust and hurtful words said to us, or about us, by misunderstandings, by outright rejection, even physical injury? Indeed, how many of us can say that reconciliation is easy? Some, in the midst of their pain, might doubt its possibility. Worse, some in their hurt and anger, might reject it outright and their anger then tends to turn into resentment and hatred. Those who doubt its possibility tend not to try. They may fear failure and not attempt it, which only leaves the wound open and suppurating. An untended wound can become infected and poisonous, dangerous to one’s health. This is true physically as well as spiritually. If the attempt is not made to heal the injury, there can be no lessons learned, no healing experienced. In short there can be no spiritual, or emotional growth.
This is the meaning of this passage. Human beings inevitably injure one another. The reasons are countless, but the results are always the same; separation, emotional pains, and broken relationships. I remember an old song that said something like this: ʺNo one hurts you like the ones you love.ʺ And this is true, isn’t it? We are never surprised when our enemies hurt us, but we are overwhelmed when those who are supposed to love us, injure us in some way. Here, then, we come up against the most important part of Jesus’ message. Reconciliation has to begin at home. That is where we must learn the how to’s, the what for’s, and the why’s of reconciliation. If we can not reconcile the differences between our own family members, our closest friends, how will we ever be able to reconcile the differences between members of society, or between nations? We have to practice it, in order to learn its lessons, and to experience the joyous well-being that is the natural consequence of it. For the truth is that if we refuse to forgive, or are unable to reconcile the injuries between us, that lack of forgiveness will be bound on us, not on the one we have refused to forgive. If we can forgive and be reconciled, then both parties will begin to be healed and the relationship will be made whole. If we ʺlooseʺ the sin between us it will ʺloosedʺ also in heaven–forever. ʺWhatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.ʺ (Mt. 18: 18)
Reconciliation happens within a dialogue. It is a personal experience. It happens within the presence of one another. Sometimes we are the ones who are guilty of the original injury. In that case, we need to be open to hearing how we have hurt and affected the other. We must do the hard work of looking at what made us do what we did. We must work on the humility that is necessary to accept our responsibility for it. We must then, in contrite sincerity, ask for their forgiveness, and we must be willing to receive it with a true humility. Sometimes we are the ones who have to give our forgiveness to the one who has hurt us so deeply. Here too, we must pray for the humility to offer our forgiveness honestly and sincerely. We must mean it. Though the memory may still be there, by offering our forgiveness we will begin the healing process. In time the memories of the original injury will be rounded off and replaced with a growing peacefulness.
This is not easy but, as always, Jesus is our guide and example. He came into the world because we had broken our relationship with God through our prideful rebellions, our sins, small and large. Jesus’ love for us was greater than our ignorance, our selfishness, our pride and our rebellion. He shows us how difficult reconciliation can be. But he also shows us what its rewards are. He suffered, even died for us, in order to reconcile us to the Father. He did not flinch in his efforts. He gave his all, for he knew the truth, he understood reality as it is. He said, ʺIf a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.ʺ (Mark 3: 25)
How do we find the strength, the courage, and the love to forgive one another and to reconcile our relationships? Jesus gives us an idea of the best place to start. It is in prayer, both private and, most importantly, in praying together. ʺWhenever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.ʺ (Mt. 18: 20) Reconciliation is not easy for us. It may seem like it is beyond our meager strengths. But if we mutually invite God into the process by praying, both in solitude and together in his name, he will be there and he will give us the graces we need to accomplish this noble and healthy deed. We can, in fact, in his name, participate in this small way in the great and still unfolding act of reconciliation that Jesus offered us on the cross. Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, it may even be very painful. But with God’s grace we can accomplish anything. In doing this we will be learning the habits that Jesus calls us to in the Lord’s Prayer: ʺForgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.ʺ In this we will find reconciliation. In this there is healing and the gift of peace. Amen.