Fighting the good fight

| Vincenzo Randazzo | March 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

“Who do you think would win in a fight — me or Enzo?”

My little brother, Antonio, asks my friend this with a tone that suggests the answer is obvious. The three of us were out to eat recently while he was visiting me from Detroit.

“You’re tough, Tony, but I’d waste you!” I said to him. He and I debated about it. He assured me that he’d “wipe the floor” with me.

It was a playful quarrel, typical of brothers. We both left thinking, “There’s only one way to settle this.” But later — oddly, in my opinion at the time — my brother apologized to me. In spite of us being playful, he said that it was a childish thing to argue about. I was surprised, and I told him that the apology wasn’t necessary. He insisted, and I forgave him, of course, and apologized myself.

While I was impressed a bit, I wouldn’t have thought much of it had we not at the same time been heading to daily Mass, where we both heard the Gospel from Matthew: “But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:20-26).

Many people can relate to the experience of the Gospel reading at Mass knocking them upside the head, but it’s a special day when you share that blow with your brother. When the priest read that part, we looked at each other and laughed. That simple moment brought me joy before God at Mass. And it was a grace received that got me thinking. Seeking forgiveness is difficult for many because of stubbornness, indifference or any vice rooted in pride. But if we cannot ask for forgiveness out of perfect love, then at the very least, we should ask for forgiveness so that we can go to Mass.

Here is what I mean: “Hey, I was heading to Mass, but I remembered I first needed to apologize to you. Reconcile with me, so I can bring my gift to the altar.”

Now, you probably won’t say it like that, and I don’t recall ever doing that myself. But the example of my brother motivates me, especially during Lent, to watch for that opportunity. We ought to be reconciled with our brothers when we are at Mass. We say in the liturgy, “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned.” But the whole point of us praying the “Confiteor,” or anything at all in the Mass, is so that we live what we say outside of Mass. “Lex orandi, lex credendi”: True prayer leads to belief.

I regret telling my brother that his apology was unnecessary. I see now that what he did was appropriate before attending Mass. Sure, he wanted forgiveness for a small tiff compared to our other arguments, and perhaps that’s why I didn’t want an apology. Maybe I didn’t want it because it would mean I will have to likewise apologize for small things, and that’s too tall an order for me. But I think it was his love for another that caused him to seek forgiveness from me — love for Christ. And at my judgment, Christ will want to know whether I forgave and sought forgiveness, and whether I loved well. And I pray that we all learn, with the help of God, to do that.

That’s what we ought to fight for: to be blameless in his sight. I’m grateful to my brother Antonio for being an example of a brother who knows that Christ cares about reconciliation with each other; Christ does not care about the fact that I can totally beat my brother up.

Randazzo is an evangelization manager in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and director of development at St. Stephen in Minneapolis.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen