A small piece that Scripture scholars link with the saying on leaving one’s gift at the altar and going to reconcile:
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 short section reminds me of the principle of making amends from Alcoholics Anonymous. Recovering addicts working their Steps know instinctively when they’ve erred and acknowledge the importance of making amends, when doing so will not bring further harm to the one sinned against.
We Christians do not really need to wait for the opportunity to celebrate the sacrament with a priest before we reach out to those whom we have harmed. It’s not a matter of forestalling a harsh penance. But more one of cultivating a spirit of reconciliation.
If extracted from that longer passage of Matthew 5:17-47, perhaps this is a good reminder for a penitent approaching for individual reconciliation. And for the rest of us, a daily reminder to recognize when we have sinned, and be prepared to take initiative at an early or opportune moment. Before it might be too late.