Gospel Reflections

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 18:15-20

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Angele Lewis

Published: September 07, 2014


In preparing this reflection, three questions emerged: How do we handle disagreements and conflicts in our personal, professional, and communal relationships? Do we deal with this tension honestly or take a passive-aggressive approach? When people disagree with us and conflict arises, are we genuinely interested in reconciliation and resolution?

Disciples of Jesus have an obligation to correct as well as to love and forgive each another.

It does not take long to think of examples in our lives that are less than loving!

  • We learn very quickly how to be “tattle tales.” How often do little children learn to make up a story about a brother or sister to minimize or to justify what he/she did.
  • We are surrounded by “talk shows” that berate opponents and promote narrow minded personal agendas.
  • “Want-to-be” individuals as well as seasoned politicians are quick to point out what is wrong with the other candidates or parties.
  • Reporters and newscasters can often sensationalize "just-breaking" stories, based on conjecture.

Like the "watchman" in the first reading, we are obliged to cajole, admonish, correct each other and we are called to do this with love and forgiveness. Correcting without love and forgiveness only escalates the situation. Jesus’ disciples are asked to handle differences in his way: Act lovingly; be humble; dialogue respectfully; and forgive generously.

Act lovingly

Acting lovingly means we have an awareness of our own failings and a realization that we are all on a common journey toward God. A person can be a great lover only when he/she recognizes and accepts the great love, forgiveness and mercy that God has shown him/her.

Be humble

St. Paul reminds us to love our neighbor "as yourself." Love does "no evil" to the neighbor. He says love does “not wrong the other person or the other’s possessions.” Love also includes a concern for the salvation of another, but this concern must be wrapped in humility. Jesus illustrates this principle in another parable with a foolish person offering to take the splinter out of his neighbor’s eye while he’s got a plank in his own!

Dialogue respectfully

Sadly, we have lost the art of dialogue. We need conversations that include a thoughtful sharing of perspectives with a goal to understanding. Today, Jesus instructs his disciples with a short “how to” course in dealing with differences of perspectives.

Jesus instructs us to use a "one-to-one" approach first. "If your brother (or sister) sins against you, go and tell him/her the fault between you and him (her) alone. If he (she) listens to you, you have won over your brother (sister)." "Winning over" in this instances involves listening and healing as signs of love. Sometimes that is “just enough.” Handling differences this way begins a reconciling process for the individual, community, and the Church.

Forgive generously

If the brother or sister still does not change, then choose another one or two to go with you. In circumstances where behaviors put others at risk, going public may be necessary, but the purpose must be the good of your brother or sister. Only if these levels fail, and only then, are you to treat the lost sheep like that of a Gentile or tax collector. However, remember that Jesus treated the Gentiles and tax collectors as people still deserving of healing and hope! Dismissing or ignoring offenders is not an option for Christians.

Jesus’ way of dealing with disagreements and conflicts leads to reconciliation and healing. A refusal or inability to deal with conflicts leads to further alienation, division and war. Today’s Psalm reminds us: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.”

Knowing and living as Jesus is a discipline that we learn in the school of life. Fortunately, God never gives up on any of us!

Take the time today and give these questions some thought and prayer…

  • How do I handle disagreements and conflicts in my personal, professional, and communal relationships?
  • Do I deal with this tension honestly or take a passive-aggressive approach?
  • When people disagree with me and conflict arises, am I genuinely interested in reconciliation and resolution?

 

 

 

 

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