One summer, a young deacon preparing for the priesthood helped us at Mass. I remember standing outside of church after his first homily and watching the congratulations pour out and his face beaming with joy. Then along came a dour-looking parishioner who blurted out, “I could not disagree with you more on what you said. You sure missed the point.”
His chin suddenly dropped to his chest and his cheerfulness darkened. As we walked back to the rectory, all he could remember was that negative comment.
My homiletics teacher taught us, “Do not let that woman pass, but gently inquire why she was disturbed. Often it is not us that disturbs a person but something in what we said triggered off a bad memory we had nothing to do with.”
Here, the virtue of understanding implores us to look more deeply into an incident like the above; to seek the roots of the problem so as to be on the same wavelength with another and to work toward reconciliation.
There is a passage in the Gospels in which Christ counsels us to drop everything when there is a dispute with another and to go to him or her and work toward reconciliation.
“If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24).
One way to read the Bible is through the eyes of reconciliation in which God is forever reconciling his people. After Peter had denied Christ, we have that beautiful scene in which Christ asks Peter, “Do you love me?” — an example of heartfelt reconciliation, empathy and sympathy par excellence.
Today, dialogue is needed to renew the church and create greater unity. Prudence prompts us to put ourselves into the world of another and see it from his or her side. Often this mollifies a dispute by unveiling why people do what they do or say what they say.
Reconciliation is at the heart of mended marriages, family feuds, the avoidance of wars, wholesome treaties and returning to God. When it is missing, so are peace, joy, forgiveness and love.
At times, reconciliation is a bitter pill to swallow. When it is the route taken, the results often lead to us say, “Why didn’t I do this earlier?”