Each congregation of “consecrated religious” (nuns, brothers, and some priests) has a dedicated charism by which their life and their ministry choices are guided. A charism is defined as a gift to the Church and from it we get the words charisma and charismatic – which can be definitive of individuals as well as organizations or institutions in any sphere of society. In the religious sphere, for example, the charism of Franciscans is their service to the poor, as a reflection of St. Francis, their founder. For the Sisters of St. Joseph (my congregation as one of a world-wide federation) the charism is unity and reconciliation, or in modern parlance, unifying love. I actually prefer the traditional iteration because of the stress that the word reconciliation puts on the process by which we approach the unity of love.
The gospel this morning puts it well and makes it personal. Matthew writes, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (5:23-24) There are two important notions here on which to reflect today: 1. It doesn’t say “If you have anything against your brother [or sister or anyone else] go and be reconciled,” but rather if they have something against you. That means that we have to take the initiative in the process, even if we aren’t the cause of the distress, so that never is there anything that we know of that has the potential to cause a rift in relationship. We must be willing to open the conversation so things can come back together – so we can be reconciled. 2. It is so important to “stay current” with others in our lives that we need to take care of anything that has burdened or fractured a relationship even before we approach God to give praise. That means that (obviously) God will wait for us but also that our relationship with each other is reflective of and intimately bound up with our relationship with God. If we are not “right” with each other it’s hard to even talk about, never mind to feel, in union with God.
This is a big order. Looking at it more globally, one could even say it is necessary for the achievement of world peace. Perhaps if we start on the personal level to make sure we are living by this rule of life each day, the consciousness will grow until it affects those around us (or they affect us!) and eventually, some fine day in the future, we will recognize the kingdom of God already present in our world.