Gospel Reflection Sept 10 – Fr. Black
Sunday, September 10
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 18: 15-20
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
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.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”
Today’s Gospel addresses a difficult situation within our human relationships. Namely, what should we do when someone has sinned against us.
I think we have all experienced this. We also know what it is like when we handle it in the wrong way. Hopefully, we have also experienced the peace of healing a relationship quickly before it gets too out of hand.
In understanding Jesus’ words today, it is helpful to look at the verses that immediately precede today’s Gospel. Jesus was telling His disciples the parable of the Lost Sheep. He speaks of how the Father, as Shepherd, goes to great lengths to retrieve the one sheep that has been lost. It is in this context of reconciliation that we hear these words today. As we approach someone who has done something wrong against us, it should be with a hope of healing our relationship and helping the other person to grow in holiness. When we approach them with anger, judgment, or self-righteousness, we are starting out on the wrong foot and run the risk of not being heard at all. It is our intent that will make all the difference. When our hope is to heal our relationship with the person, we will likely choose very different words than if we were to choose them out of anger or any other negative emotions.
It is equally important that the persons involved, if we need to include others, have the same reconciling attitude. When all attempts fail, while Jesus’ words sound harsh, what He is saying is not. He is saying to leave them alone. It is when we carry the grudge for a long time that our behavior and our speech become less than healing. When we continue to talk about or think negatively about the person, that brings further division. When the steps we take toward healing don’t seem to be working, we are not out of options. Prayer is our next step.