“If thou offer thy gift at the altar, and thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shall offer thy gift, alleluia.”
This Sunday's liturgy is concerned with the forgiveness of injuries, with brotherly reconciliation. It takes its cue from a passage of one of the epistles of St. Peter the Apostle, whose feast is kept this month, and from a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Jesus condemns not only the external act of murder, but also the interior motive of anger which leads us to it, for in this is the desire of ridding ourselves of our neighbor. “This anger has three degrees,” says St. Augustine. The first is when one retains in the heart the disturbance that has been created there (Postcommunion), the second when one expresses his indignation, and thirdly, when one openly reviles him who caused it (Epistle). Corresponding to these three degrees are three punishments of an increasingly grave character. “The true sacrifice is reconciliation with our brother,” says St. John Chrysostom. “The first sacrifice necessary to offer to God,” adds Bossuet, “is a heart free from all coldness and unfriendliness towards one’s brother” (Meditations, 14th day).
The best way to come to the possession of charity is to love God, to desire the good things of eternity (Collect) and the possession of happiness in heavenly places, where entrance is only to be had through the continual practice of this fair virtue. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, and this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Communion).