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.
Years ago, when I taught at Bethlehem Catholic High School, I undoubtedly irritated a number of individuals and even made enemies. Some of these persons, however, I now count among my good friends. What changed?
Considering my life in retrospect, I can say, “I did such-and-such last year. I did so-and-so three years ago. I did this-and-that five years ago.” But really, when it comes to something done seven years ago or longer, I tend to think that the person I once was did it. I am not the same person today as I was seven years ago. Thanks be to God!
Here’s the point: If people did not like me seven years ago or even longer ago than that, perhaps I don’t blame them. Perhaps even I don’t like the self that I once was seven years ago or prior to that. When I look at my former adversaries from this perspective, it makes it a whole lot easier for me to let go of past hurts. The person I am today is, I hope, much wiser and more compassionate than the person I was seven years ago.
A refusal to forgive, then, may be rooted in an unwillingness to grow. Could there possibly be a more wretched prison?