Even as a boy, I loved this section of St Matthew's Gospel. Imagine what a nightmare it must have been for poor people, making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the first and probably only time in their lives, to stop, pray and realize that they were not in what their Jewish tradition would call right relationship. Perhaps their prayer unveiled an unresolved hurt or conflict or reminded them that they had undermined another person's reputation. Whatever the situation, Jesus demands that anyone discovering their fault return home and reconcile with whomever they are at odds with before presenting their gift at the altar.
Theologians have often spoken of conscience as the still, small voice within that alerts us to our own dishonesty or sin, and demands we pay attention to it even if it might be impossible to formally heal the wound we have created. A tender (not to say scrupulous) conscience is a gift because it helps us pay more attention to others than ourselves, and helps us work towards a peace filled world. That Jesus insists we seek reconciliation before approaching the altar reminds us to strive to make the Eucharist a celebration of unity and healing, and a gathering of believers committed to renewing themselves in Christ.
Today, ask forgiveness from someone you have hurt.
What has helped you seek reconciliation even when you did not feel like it?