In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to seek true resolution and reconciliation in our anger, always maintaining a spirit of brotherhood toward others and not allowing that anger to fester. Sometimes we read this passage and think it means we’re supposed to be completely at peace all the time, never having an ounce of irritation toward anyone. But really, the spirit of brotherhood that Jesus talks about means acknowledging and working through our anger, not bottling it up or pretending it doesn’t exist. We can’t resolve our anger if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it—the only thing we’ll achieve by ignoring it is to let resentment build quietly within us. And we also can’t hold too tightly to our anger and our pride if we are going to be able to forgive someone who has hurt us. We can look to Jesus’s own example in the Gospels of how we are to respond to anger: acknowledging the issue and acting upon it, while never nursing our anger or holding a grudge.
Anger, fear, sorrow, and frustration are natural human emotions, signs not of weakness but of a need for action within our relationships—both our relationship with God and our relationships with other people. Personal connection and reconciliation are what will initiate healing and peace within us. If we truly care about another person, we will desire to truly mend our relationship with them, not just hide the cracks in its foundation. And if we care about our own hearts, we will want to be freed from the burden of our own hostility. We are meant to be in community with one another, just as we are meant to be in communion with God—and if we neglect our human relationships, then our relationship with God will suffer. This is why Jesus urges His disciples:
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Image: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, The Rage of Achilles / PD-US