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Peters: Jesus taught us about reconciliation — forgive and make amends

With Ash Wednesday next week, now is the time to make straight our path and prepare for Christ. The simplest way to accomplish this task is for us to embrace love in all of our interactions, but this isn’t necessarily the easiest way.

The world is filled with hate and suffering, and we often overlook the need to care for one another. Violence is common, and we have grown accustomed to it. However, violence isn’t the only way to cause hate, and hate in all forms is wrong.

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When teaching about the Commandments, Jesus said, in Matthew 5: 21-22, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment... and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”

These are harsh words, because we spread hate so often in our daily routine. From politics to traffic, we are quick to judge and condemn, and we do so out of hate than for any just cause.

Jesus knew this will always be the case, because we are not perfect, so he instructed us on how to make amends for our hate, in Matthew 5: 23-24: “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.”

This need for reconciliation with those you’ve wronged is key, because there cannot be love without peace and harmony, and there cannot be worship without love. To do anything else would be hypocritical, which is a sin in itself.

It is for this reason that Jesus warned, in Matthew 5: 25, "Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison."

The judge, of course, is God, and the prison is Hell, and those who refuse to love others will be condemned. These are very clear words, and they are very harsh. However, they are absolutely necessary for us to hear. Hate is the source of so many of the world’s problems, and it destroys the hater as much as the hated.

By linking anger with murder, Christ makes it clear how just how destructive it is, and this follows with his constant emphasis on the need for us to take care of one another. If we are to prepare ourselves for Christ, we must keep this in mind and act in a way where we try to spread love instead of hate.

As we go through Lent, we must remember to forgive others for the wrongs they’ve committed and make amends that we have made. This is an absolutely necessary and important step to create a better world and to follow God’s will.

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Jeffrey Peters, a graduate of Catholic University with a doctorate, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at 17peters@cardinalmail.cua.edu.

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