“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. 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.”
This admonition of Our Lord in today’s Gospel reminds me of my years as a civil litigation attorney. Lawyers get a bad rap, and rightly so, but even we “get” what Our Lord is saying here, at least on a human level.
I must have worked on hundreds of cases during my legal career, and maybe a dozen went to trial. The overwhelming majority of cases eventually settle. On the eve of trial, after months of futile negotiations, the parties see things more accurately and realize that they are much better off settling than incurring the costs and risks that come with having one’s day (or week or more) in court.
Okay, but what does all this have to do with today’s Gospel?
First, are we willing to incur the spiritual as well as interpersonal costs associated with not reconciling with our neighbor? How do we know that our “trial” and “judgment” won’t be moved up on the docket and take place tomorrow or even tonight? Do we want to appear before the Lord before settling with our neighbor?
And even if our neighbor goes to the Lord first, will we regret reconciling with him or her while we were still able to do so?
Second, in the spiritual realm, we do have an attorney, or more precisely, an Advocate (Jn. 16:13; Catechism, no. 692). He continually urges us to be reconciled to God and to neighbor, as He guides us to all truth. And the truth is, if we profess to be faithful Catholics but still hate our neighbor (see 1 Jn. 1:9), we have some serious work to do this Lenten season.