23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A

3 APPROACHES TO RECONCILATION

“If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves.”

My attention was drawn to the interview of Jacob Rees-Mogg on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, 6th September 2017 by one of the parishioners. I decided to have look it up via YouTube. I must say the interview was very interesting and mind-blowing (I strongly suggest that you look it up too). The issues were on same-sex marriage, abortion and sin. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is a Tory MP and a Catholic, was very courageous in stating bravely and clearly the “I am a Catholic” and more than three times that “I support the teaching of the Catholic Church” on those issues. His calm demeanour and firmness on his position in defence of the teachings of the Church to the enormous TV viewers from all divides made me reflect deeply into the command of God to Ezekiel in the First Reading of today. Ezekiel was commanded by God to speak to the sinner as He directs and where he fails to do so in order to save the sinner, the penalty of the death of the sinner would be on his head. This is the burden of the prophet, the Church, the priests and the entire people of God. Today, the Church is the “mouth of God” instructing us on what how to live good lives and where to take our stand on moral and faith issues. No doubt our world today needs men and women like Mogg, courageous, bold, brave and proud defenders of the teachings of the Church. We live in a world that is certainly pushing God off our shelves, our classrooms, our hospitals, our offices, our parliaments and from our constitution. They want to raise our children for us in moral neutrality in the coded phrase of “political correctness.” But let me ask us:

Who did God give those children to – the State or the parents?

Who has the duty to raise those children – the State or the Parents?

Who will be accountable to God for those precious little gifts – the State or the parents? 

Today each of called in our various vocations and posts, to be the mouthpiece of God, speaking the truth in love.

This narrative from the Gospel of Matthew (18: 15-20) raises some questions in the minds of Scripture scholars, readers and listeners:

Does this really sound like Jesus?

Would Jesus say that we should abandon or avoid anyone to die in his sinfulness?

Did Jesus not always love the sinner while condemning the sin? (The Woman in Adultery: John 8: 1-11).

While these questions may keep popping up, the Church would love us to consider the relevance of the message to our daily lives. The passage of the Gospel calls our attention to how to improve on inter-personal relationships. The passage acknowledges the fact that conflicts, disagreements, even quarrels are part of human life. We cannot co-exist without their occurrences. But issue here is therefore not in the differences but in how we handle them: the post-conflict situation is very critical because it can build or break our relationships with one another. So today the Word of God presents us with 3 approaches to how we should handle our differences or our wrongs – I like to call this 3 approaches of reconciliation.

Private Encounter: The first approach is a private encounter: “go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves.” Don’t brood about it; don’t bury it within and take it out on him or others, no third party! When we bury it within and brood over the offence of others against us we create avenues for the devil to get involved and prompt us to act wickedly; and when we talk to others, we are prone to being ill-advised and the story can spread wildly in unexpected speculative propensity. Thus this approach strongly suggests a one-to-one or face-to-face private verbal dialogue in an atmosphere of love and Christian charity. A warm humble approach is likely to bring about restoration, but if however it does not, there is a second option.

One or Two Mediators: Where the first options fails, we are instructed to “take one or two others along.” This perhaps is to satisfy the condition stipulated in the Book Deuteronomy 19: 15 that the testimony of two or three witnesses is sufficient to establish a case. Who do you get involved here? They should be men and/or women of good character, who are gentle, humble, loving, patient, able to keep secret and willing to help. The intention here is for reconciliation and restoration of the threatened relationship and not judgement. Where this fails, there is a third option.

Church Community (Parish Pastoral Council): The third approach is: “report it to the Community. The mention of Community/Church here raises a doubt as to if Jesus really said this because at this time there was no Church in the structural or institutional form that would suggest the possibility of this. But it is interesting to identify this role of the Church as mediator. However, the Church exists as a peacemaker among her members. In settling the differences of her children, the Church is expected to employ the Gospel principles of justice, love and mercy guided by the fear of God to bring harmony among her children. St. Paul (1 Corinthians 6: 1-9) warns the Corinthians against taking their complaints to the pagans, who have no sense of justice. He advised them to take their cases to the Church, where the children of light, in the atmosphere of love, would give them a fair hearing and amicably settle the differences.

In general we are called to be courageous to speak up and speak out especially in the face of hurt, injustice and sin. The priestly or prophetic duty placed on Ezekiel by God in the First Reading (Ezekiel 33: 7-9) as a “sentry to the House of Israel” is placed on each of us by the fact of our baptism. The Church cannot afford to be silent or indifferent when the whole world is soaked in hatred, racial discrimination, corruption, secularism, relativism and permissiveness. Similarly, in our little corners we must be brave to uphold the position of God and the teachings of His Son, Jesus Christ in the Gospels. The Church and all of us are the mouthpieces of God in our world today. We are to seek peace through reconciliation and restoration of relationships through forgiveness.

May the God, who called us, grant us the grace of God to be able to make sufficient efforts to respond to His call at all times and in all circumstances. Amen.