If Two of You Agree: A Reflection from the Christian Traditions Posted September 4, 2020 by admin@interfaith


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September 4, 2020
A Reflection from the Christian Traditions
Matthew 18:19
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
If two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
                                                 Matthew 18: 19
I am not sure the “anything” in this text means “anything.” I tried it once. A close friend and I came together in prayer and agreed we should be “granted” an all-expense paid vacation to some exotic place. We prayed. It was never granted. It amazes me how quickly I think prayer has something to do with asking for things and getting them. In fact, the word “anything” does not capture the meaning of the Gospel text. The “two” who come together are doing so for the benefit of anyone in the community who needs help, healing, or, as the context suggests, forgiveness.      
When I gather with the community of faith, I am touched by the sincerity of those who take prayer seriously. They pray for the well-being of others. In those moments, I remember the essence of prayer is gratitude to God resulting in generosity of heart to others.  Perhaps, we are called to be the answer to another’s prayer.
The context of Matthew 18: 15-20 provides the key for understanding the teaching of Jesus. The “power” the Church enjoys is the power of forgiveness. The disciples, like Peter, are particularly blessed by Jesus to be people of uncompromising forgiveness. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to live lives of radical forgiveness. This is the sum and substance of prayer in our text. 
Forgiveness invites us to see the dignity and beauty of another person even if they fail. We are invited to unlock the doors of our hearts sharing with others our empathy, understanding, and love.
Jesus tapped into something the great Sages of all times discovered and taught. We are more than our failures. In fact, the power of forgiveness is born the moment we become aware of our own need for forgiveness. 
As I look back on my life, I am horrified by some of the things I said and did. I wish I could change my past. I sometimes become angry with myself feeling both shame and guilt. The Gospel invites gentleness in this moment of painful realization. I come to understand, in the moment of shame and guilt, how important it is to experience forgiveness and become a forgiver of others. 
Forgiveness does not minimize the faults or sins of self or others but invites us to be more human and humane as we confront, correct, and challenge ourselves and others to be our best selves.
We need to be present to one another so together we might open our hearts to the needs of others. The violence of fear and hatred must give way to the humanity found in the depths of our hearts. Perhaps, we need to forgive ourselves so we can stop hesitating to forgive others.
From you, Holy Community, I pray for forgiveness for all my faults and failures. With your prayer and God’s uncompromising love, I pray I might be a better person. I pray a prayer of gratitude to God for all of you that together we might be better people, forgiving people, and loving people. When I think of you, I know my prayer has been heard and answered in ways both amazing and surprising. Thank you for gathering in His name, agreeing to forgive, love, and understand.