roamin' catholic: karin rosner

Matthew 5:23-24, Two Little Girls, and Physical Science

Posted on: February 17, 2011

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)


“Gabriella, why are you hitting Sophia?!” The two, tiny, toddlers, each dressed in bright shades of sweetheart pink, were sitting in a wooden rocking boat in my church’s Sunday school classroom. I knelt down next to the little girls, gently removing fist from hand. Sophia and Gabriella were straining toward opposite ends of the boat, fore and aft, at exactly the same time, each girl trying to force the boat to move. Gabriella had reached forward and slammed her fist frustratedly on top of Sophia’s hand that rested on the divider between the two girls.

“STOP! Just stop!” Sophia’s little face was scrunched up in angry concentration. She pulled her slammed hand to her chest, fighting back tears. Gabriella started straining backwards again. “STOP!”

Constant fighting blocks life, miring it in a swamp of regrets and hurts. Life moves, whether that’s movement forward in a friendship or relationship, in work and creative projects, or in any of other areas of our lives. Life is the only real thing we can offer to God in sacrifice, as a gift, and it is always broken, cracked… an imperfect offering.

Something, or someone, has gotta give for reconciliation and forgiveness to happen. Forgiveness takes two people, and one person has to back down to be able to both receive forgiveness and also forgive. What should come next is mutual compromise and reconciliation. When there is no forgiveness, there can be no compromise, no reconciliation and one of the two people in conflict must, by necessity, walk away and move out of the picture for anything else to happen. Conflict confounds movement, destroys life, and blocks Grace.

Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel are both a command to us to follow God’s Law perfectly in forgiving one another, and a reminder that on our own, we will never be able to keep this Law perfectly. Jesus points out that a little pain touches the whole community. Our fights are never only just between us and the person we’re in conflict with, even when that person is ourself. Our relationships reflect our always-broken human approach to God and each other. Grace comes through God’s forgiveness of us through Christ, and our mutual forgiveness of each other. It’s only God’s forgiveness, working in us, that can move any part of us and our relationships from brokenness to wholeness.

“Watch me,” insisted Sophia. She thew her weight backwards, and Gabriella tried doing the same thing in the opposite direction again. Sophia tried being patient and stopping Gabriella one more time.

Gabriella finally figured out what Sophia was asking her to do, and she stopped. There was an unspoken compromise, and Sophia took the lead. Sophia shoved the boat backward, Gabriella thrust forward at just the right moment. Swinging back on the reverse, Gabriella lunged backward, Sophia pushed forward. Angry little girls stopped causing each other pain and frustration and the fun finally started as they moved in sync together.


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