Friday, September 8, 2017

The common theme of today’s readings is that we are all  “keepers” of our brothers and sisters, for each one of us is important to all the others in our Faith community. In the first reading, God tells Ezekiel that he is to be a "watchman for the house of Israel,” obliged to warn Israel of moral dangers.  If Ezekiel should refrain from speaking God’s word intended to convert the wicked, God will hold Ezekiel responsible for the death of the wicked. 

In the second reading, St. Paul points out that the love we should have for one another should be our only reason for admonishing the sinner.  Love seeks the good of the one who is loved. Therefore, we should admonish one another so that we all may repent and grow in holiness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that true Christian charity obliges a Christian with correction and counsel for an erring brother or sister who has damaged the community by his or her public sin. Matthew expands a saying of Jesus, originally concerned primarily with forgiveness into a four-step procedure of confrontation, negotiation, adjudication and excommunication, dealing to finally mend a broken relationship within the Christian fellowship.

1.Confrontation:  The worst thing that we can do about a wrong done to us is to brood about it. Brooding can poison our whole mind and life, until we can think of nothing else but our sense of personal injury. We mustn’t gossip either, but should go to meet the offender in person, and point out lovingly, in all seriousness, the harm he has done.  This is to solve the issue between them.

2.Negotiation:  Suppose the first step does not resolve the situation and the person refuses to admit wrong, and continue in a bad behavior, the second step is to take one or two other members of the Church along with the wronged person to speak to the wrongdoer and to act as confirming witnesses. The taking of the witnesses is not meant to be a way of proving to a man that he has committed an offence, but for emphasizing and explaining calmly the gravity of the situation. 

3.Adjudication: If the negotiation step does not resolve the situation either, the third step is to have the whole Church or community of believers confront the wrongdoer. The Church provides an atmosphere of Christian prayer, Christian love and Christian fellowship in which personal relationships may be righted in the light of love and of the Gospel. Finally, in matters of honor and shame, the community is the final arbiter, for the community as a whole suffers from the wrong.

4) Excommunication: If the offender chooses to disregard the believing community's judgment, the consequence is “excommunication.” That is, the wrongdoer should be put out of the Church with the hope that temporary alienation alone may bring the erring person to repentance and change. But the excommunication should be carried out with genuine grief (1 Cor 5:2), not vindictive glee over another's "fall" or self-righteous pride.

In one of the popular Chicken Soup volumes, Dennis E. Mannering tells about an assignment he once gave to a class he teaches for adults. He gave them the assignment, "Go to someone you love, and tell them that you love them." At the beginning of the next class, one of the students began by saying, "I was angry with you last week when you gave us this assignment. I didn't feel I had anyone to say those words to. But as I began driving home my conscience started talking. Then I knew exactly who I needed to say ‘I love you’ to. Five years ago, my father and I had a vicious disagreement and never really resolved it. We avoided seeing each other unless we absolutely had to at family gatherings. We hardly spoke. So by the time I got home, I had convinced myself I was going to tell my father I loved him. Just making that decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest. At 5:30, I was at my parents' house ringing the doorbell, praying that Dad would answer the door. I was afraid if Mom answered, I would chicken out and tell her instead. But as luck would have it, Dad did answer the door. I didn't waste any time. I took one step in the door and said, ‘Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.’ It was as if a transformation came over my dad. Before my eyes his face softened, the wrinkles seemed to disappear and he began to cry. He reached out. But that's not even my point. Two days after that visit, my dad had a heart attack. So my message to all of you is this: Don't wait to do the things you know need to be done. What if I had waited to tell my dad? Take the time to do what you need to do and do it now!"

People hurt us, sometimes intentionally, sometimes without meaning to. But sometimes who is in the right and who is in the wrong is not as important as finding a common ground where the relationship can be maintained. Sometimes that means that we have to take the first step, even though we know that the other person is in the wrong. And the best time to take that step is today.

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