23rd Sunday of the Year A

The Sign of Peace at Mass is not always the most popular part in certain quarters. While Irish people are shy about the sign of peace. Some people in my parish go to great lengths to avoid sitting near others to avoid it. One lady even leaves the church and re-enters as The Lamb of God is being recited or sung. One year on a pilgrimage to Fatima, one day after Mass my Dad said: ‘I’m coming back here’. When my Mum and I asked him why he said: ‘at the sign of peace I got a kiss on both cheeks from a beautiful Portuguese girl!’

According to the first reading from Ezekiel, as a sentinel, a sentry would be remiss in his role and failing in his duty as a preacher of God’s word if he neglected the call to repentance for all people. This applies to all preachers, and I must include myself among the sinners in need of hearing God’s word when I preach God’s message. What is worse I would be punished for failure to preach. I am not however guilty if people fail to repent. Repentance ultimately means being at rights with God.
St Paul makes it clear that this entails fidelity to God’s commandments in love. To be a Christian is a new way of life. If we truly love, we will not hurt. And therefore love is the answer to all questions of morality.

Reconciliation with one’s brother (neighbour) is also a crucial part of faithful discipleship and a pre-condition for true prayer and worship. Where there is harmony in the community and in the Church, the more pleasing we are to God and the more effective will be our prayer.

Can you think of anyone you are at odds with - a family member or a work colleague, a relative with whom you are not on speaking terms or where there is a long-standing grievance? It is time to reconcile as best you can. If you have made every effort to restore the relationship and they still refuse to speak or forgive, you have done your best. Keep praying and keep the lines of communication open. Then you can come before the Lord in prayer in confidence and with a clear conscience.

Jesus is our Brother too and He wants us to be reconciled with Him. We need to be reconciled with one another and Him. In marriage, misunderstandings and disagreement are part and parcel of life, but a good line of Scripture says: ‘we should never let the sun go down on our anger’.

If I have any hatred, animosity, lack of forgiveness, anger, resentment – these must be weeded out and healed in my life – in my strained relations with others, if my prayer is to be heard – i.e. to be on speaking terms with others is a necessary quality in my life if I am trying to be on speaking terms with God in prayer! I must be honest and humble and admit wrong for my part.

If we are at peace with one another we will be at peace with God and enjoy the peace that the world cannot give. Jesus says ‘I leave you peace, my own peace I give you.’

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