I remember when I first heard – I mean really heard these lines in Matthew’s gospel: “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.” (Mt 5: 20-26) It seemed a bit backward to me—not that I might have something against my brother but rather that I was being blamed for wrongdoing. It made me look deeper at my willingness to own up to my failings in relationship.
Today I need to entertain another step on the way to maturity. Not only do we have Matthew’s advice quoted above, but the gospel acclamation adds another layer to the need for truth telling. It says: “Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the Lord, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” (Ez 18:31) It’s as if we’re called before a God who is not willing to do all the work in telling us what we’ve done that we ought to regret in our relationships but that we ought to be conscious enough and honest enough to “say it like it is.” For those of us who are used to the Scripture that says, “I will take away from you your stony hearts and give you a new (or “natural”) heart, this is a new moment. Still believing the truth of that generous promise from God about new hearts, it now seems incumbent on us that we work with God to create those new, natural, loving hearts that beat more clearly than ever before.