Bad Blood

*Alter at Saint Anthony's Church, in West Warwick, R.I.*

Ezek 18:21-28; Matt 5:20-26

“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.” (Matt 5:23-24)

The expression “bad blood” refers to a disposition of vindictiveness or ill-feeling. Within our family systems and communities, feuds can exist for years, even decades. We see this on the international level as we watch what is happening in the Middle East, in southeast Asia, in the cold and hot wars that crisscross our planet. But we need not look that far for bad blood: it exists sometimes in our own hearts.

The kingdom of God is about union and unity: union with God and unity with one another. Sin breaks that unity; feuds and bad blood injure the union that God desires for all his children. Thus, we are in a constant state of reconciliation, attempting to mend broken relationships, asking forgiveness for our sins, seeking peace with those who have hurt us or those whom we have injured. St. Paul constantly reminds the early Christians that they have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation

As we come to the altar to hear God’s word and receive the Eucharist, we are challenged to examine our conscience to see if reconciliation is needed. Jesus is clear and emphatic: if someone has something against us, we are to seek unity in that relationship before we celebrate it at the altar.

Sometimes that is impossible. The person we are in conflict with may have died. Or, there is no openness on the part of the other for healing. All that can be done is to make a sincere effort, and then we leave the rest to God. Even Jesus at the Last Supper and on the cross had to deal with bad blood as Judas betrayed him. The lack of union and unity was as painful as the physical torture.

John Macquarrie, the Anglican theologian, writes: “By ‘reconciliation’ is meant the activity whereby the disorders of existence are healed, its imbalance redressed, its alienation bridged over.” He might have added: “When bad blood dries up.”

How can you be a minister of reconciliation this Lent? Is there any bad blood in your relationships?
Lord Jesus, as we come to the altar give us the grace to deal with the disorders in our relationships. Remove the bad blood from our communities and world. Then we shall worship you in spirit and in truth.

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