Giving alms in its most traditional form consists of helping the poor and the needy in some way, but in today’s Gospel we’re reminded that our charity toward others can be a Lenten almsgiving that is just as pleasing to Our Lord. Just as we lavish a meal, some clothes, or some other necessity on the poor we can lavish mercy on someone we feel has wronged us. It’s easy to settle for just not physically harming someone who has crossed us, or maintaining an angry distance and silence, but Our Lord warns us that is a very superficial attitude that doesn’t entail reconciliation.
In many cases in which we estrange ourselves from God, we estrange ourselves from others. Two effects of the sacrament of Reconciliation are reconciliation with God and reconciliation with the Church. Our Lord reminds us today that this reconciliation is a two-way street: we can ask ourselves how reconciled we are with God if we haven’t reconciled with others. This provides food for thought when we have that moment of silence in the Penitential Rite at the start of every celebration of the Eucharist: do we need to reconcile with someone, whether as the guilty party or as the victim? This isn’t necessarily “feeling it”: if someone hurt us, or we hurt someone else, the wounds remain, and the pain continues even after they’ve begun to heal. Sometimes it is impossible to even find the other person again to try and reconcile. Rather than a feeling, it is a question having a firm spiritual resolve and attitude, despite adverse sentiments, to forgive or to make amends whenever possible.
Lent is an apt time for taking stock of whether we need to reconcile with anyone. Our Lord came and suffered the Passion to reconcile us with Our Father and with others. Let’s welcome his mediation in any disputes or feuds we’ve had by working and praying for the grace of truly forgiving and seeking forgiveness from those with whom we’ve been at enmity.
Readings: Ezekiel 18:21–28; Psalm 130:1–8; Matthew 5:20–26. See also 10th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.