Neglecting to Do Good

Friday, Sep. 15, 2023
Neglecting to Do Good + Enlarge
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
But what do we do if we’re examining our conscience before Mass and realize that someone has something against us, but we have no way of contacting our brother to be reconciled?
This happened to me just last weekend. I was rude. I didn’t mean to be, and I didn’t realize I had been until it was too late to apologize, and now there’s no way to make it right. 
The incident continued to drag on my conscience, so today I asked a priest what I should do to be in right relationship with God, because I couldn’t beg forgiveness of the person I’d offended. During my quasi-confession, Fr. Christopher Gray asked a couple of questions: Was I just excusing my behavior, or did I really not realize at the time that I’d been rude? Did I really have no way of contacting the person I had offended? If I were able to contact the person, would I in fact ask for forgiveness? 
My answer to the first question was that I was so focused on my own thoughts that it wasn’t until afterward that I realized I’d been rude. The answer to the other two questions was no, I didn’t have any way to contact the person, although if I did I would call to apologize.
In such situations, Fr. Gray said, intention matters; because I hadn’t intended to cause offense I hadn’t sinned in the true sense of the world. He did add, however, that the Church has a very strong tradition of asking for forgiveness of sins committed in ignorance, and doing reparation for the same. 
This has roots in the Old Testament: The Book of Leviticus proscribes a sin offering for a person who inadvertently does something that is forbidden. In the Catholic Church, prayer is often the penance offered for this type of sin. Fr. Gray recommended the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but there are many other prayers for this purpose. One I particularly like, because it specifically mentions sins of omission, is this one:
“Most sacred heart of Jesus, have mercy on me. O God, forgive me for all the sins of my life; the sins of my youth and the sins of my age, the sins of my body and the sins of my soul, the sins I have confessed and the sins I have forgotten, the sins against others in thought, word and deed, my sins of omission. O, my God, I am sorry for all my sins, because you are so good; and I will not sin again with the help of God. God be merciful to me, a sinner. Divine heart of Jesus, convert sinners, save the dying, deliver the holy souls in purgatory.”
I also like the Prayer for Daily Neglects because it acknowledges “the good I ought to have done neglected this day and all my life.” 
Researching reparation for sins of omission, I came across the Thursdays Devotion, which I’ve not heard of before. The roots of this go back to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She heard Christ ask to have Gethsemane remembered on Thursday nights. Then, in the middle part of the 20th century, Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey suggested that people have a Sacred Heart Night Adoration Holy Hour in the home on Thursdays. 
The upshot of all of this is that as penance for my rudeness, I’m going say prayers for reparation, and observe the Thursdays Devotion. Among my prayers will be that the person to whom I was rude will forgive me.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic. Reach her at

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