Today Jesus reminds us of the important role the Church plays in ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven, particularly her role in reconciliation. Jesus encourages us to try and work things out between ourselves: when someone wrongs us we ought, in a charitable manner, to bring that wrong to the person’s attention in the hope that the other person will admit their fault, and reconciliation—founded upon forgiveness—may occur. If this doesn’t work, ask one or two others to come in and offer their perspective on the situation; as a last resort, go to the Church for help.
This might strike us as somewhat idealistic: can you imagine such a process? But Jesus is telling us that as subjects of the Kingdom we are invited to do things differently: instead of holding grudges, and instead of pretending everything is fine, we are invited to forgive, and to ask for help from our fellow Kingdom citizens. What we learn today is that our struggles are not just “our” struggles, nor our sins just “our” sins. We belong now to a Kingdom, a Body, and that changes our relationships and the way we approach problems therein. If we find ourselves in such a situation where we have been wronged by a brother or sister in the Church, have we ever tried to find resolution to the matter through our common faith, or by seeking the Church’s help in some way?
For Jesus teaches us, time and again, the necessity of forgiveness; in a way, He reminds us of this when He says “whatever you bind on earth with be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Refusing to forgive another person binds your heart, as you choose to hold their wrong against them, and the love Christ desires us to show is tied up—is bound—by the chain of our grudge. Recall that forgiveness does not mean excusing the person’s wrong. Rather it is choosing not to allow the wrong to define your relationship, nor color the image you bear of the person in your heart. It is often a difficult, painful process, depending on the wrong done, but if we allow our hearts to be bound on earth by the chains of unforgiveness, will we have the freedom of soul needed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, or will those chains bind us to the earth? Yet if we can find the courage to invite Jesus into the midst of such difficulties, He promises to be there in our midst. Pray for the ability to forgive; don’t become a slave to unforgiveness, but rather ask Jesus to help you “forgive those who trespass against” you, forgiving them as He has many times forgiven you.