Wednesday Witness (on Thursday): I Can’t Hear You…You’re Yelling

Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

Woke this morning on the wrong side of the bed. Shuffled to the living room to pray with my bride. Opened the missal to the Tenth Thursday in Ordinary Time (Year II) and began to proclaim the first reading, only for Jodi to say that her copy of “Living With Christ” had a different reading.

Of course. It’s the memorial of St. Barnabas, apostle.

I turned to the back of the missal and found June 11. Sure enough, the first reading was about St. Barnabas, from the Acts of the Apostles. I read the responsorial psalm, then began the gospel.

“Um,” said Jodi, “I have a different gospel.”

I sighed and shrugged. “Well,” I said, exasperated, “I don’t know what it is…what do you have?”

She told me. I flipped back to the Tenth Thursday, and sure enough, “Living With Christ” was using the regular gospel for the day.

We went with it:

Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, 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. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” – Matthew 5:20-26

Notice that in this passage, as in the parable of the unforgiving servant, the angry, unforgiving individual is handed over to prison and torment until he has paid the last penny or the whole debt. 

Now ask yourself: Having been imprisoned, how will he ever repay his debt?

He can’t. Because he has chosen to remain in anger and unforgiveness, he can no longer earn forgiveness for himself.

And consider that we pray this same fate for ourselves regularly: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

We are forgiven in proportion to our forgiveness.

This struck me this morning, because I have watched over the past several days, weeks and months as family, friends, acquaintances and strangers have squared off over the facemasks, freedom, politics, police, black lives, unborn lives, you name it. People who know each other, like each other, work and play together—or (worse in some ways), people who don’t know the first thing about each other—snarling, snapping, barking and biting, unwilling to give an inch. All wanting to be right. All trying to win. All striving for  the last word.

To what end? Righteous anger has its place, but also its limit…and there is no righteous unforgiveness.

You can have it, I don’t want it, and when you’ve got it, I’ll be gone. It won’t matter what you’re saying when the damage has all been done. – Mary Chapin Carpenter, “The Last Word”

Later this morning, Gabe and I went to daily Mass. Fr. Richards used the gospel that goes with the memorial of St. Barnabas, but in his homily, shared a bit more background about the apostle, whose name means “son of encouragement.”

It seems St. Paul and St. Barnabas were great leaders and preachers together in Antioch, but had a falling out over the behavior of another apostle, John Mark (the gospel writer Mark). They parted ways for a time, but were eventually reconciled, earning St. Barnabas the title of patron saint of quarrels. May we invoke his name and intercession when tempers rise, and we are tempted to lash out at others who may disagree with us.

St. Barnabas, son of encouragement, pray for us!

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