At first glance, these words seem very harsh. Surely Jesus wouldn’t put my anger on the same level as murder! Wouldn’t he understand if I put off reconciling with my brother or sister for a while longer?
For the answer, we have to look inside our hearts. Anger is a normal human emotion, but as with all other emotions, we should never let it control us. Just a brief look at the consequences of unchecked anger shows us how destructive it can be: domestic abuse, divorce, road rage, and yes, murder. Even hidden anger can be deadly. Concealed beneath the façade of a smile and a pleasant demeanor, it can lead to patterns of pride, jealousy, judgment, and gossip.
We can’t afford to overlook the resentments we may be holding against other people. The anger we have ignored can be like a poison meant for someone else that we have swallowed ourselves. This poison of bitterness and hostility can cast a shadow over us. It can contaminate our relationships and become the darkened lens through which we view the world. We can try to keep these feelings within us. We can dismiss them as not really threatening anyone. But sooner or later, we will have to deal with them, even if the person against whom we have these feelings has long left our lives.
Jesus is very clear about our need to reconcile with one another. He is the God of peace, and he has given us “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). As we let the Holy Spirit help us resolve our inner conflicts, we will find it easier to live in harmony with everyone, even those who have hurt us in the past.
So try your best to forgive. If there is an offense that is just too hard to forgive, try taking a small step toward that goal. And take another step tomorrow. Spend time with the Lord each day, and let his great gift of time slowly heal you. Jesus really can make you whole and bring us all to reconciliation!
“Come, Holy Spirit, and burn away all bitterness in the fire of your love!”
Grant that your faithful, O Lord, we pray, may be so conformed to the paschal observances, that the bodily discipline now solemnly begun may bear fruit in the souls of all.