23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Ez 33:7-9/ Ps 95:1-2. 6-7. 8-9
Rom 13: 8-10
Mt. 18: 15-20
Two lessons are being presented in today’s gospel:
1) It is about conversion—by giving the one who offended us a chance to repent without publicly destroying his/her name.
2) Jesus condemns all destructive gossip.
One day, a young man approached a monk and told the monk that he had engaged in gossiping. To teach him a lesson about the permanent damage that gossip can cause others, the monk sent the young man to the bridge over the river and bring along with him a pillow. He was instructed that once he on the bridge the young man should cut open the pillow and shake out its feathers. Upon returning, the monk sent back the young man to collect the feathers. “But that’s impossible”, the young man replied. “By now they have flown in every direction. I could never get them back.” “Exactly”, said the monk. Your gossip is the same. Once released it can never be retrieved.
One of the most common defects of people (male/female, single/married, young/old) is the persistent habit of discussing another’s fault with everyone else, except with the person at fault. Some people seem to take pleasure at another person’s wrongdoing because it gives them something to talk about and perhaps, it is a way to cover up their own wrong doings. It is even said that the faults we find most repugnant in others are precisely the ones that plague our own lives.
The most damaging consequence of such a human behavior is when a wrongdoing is falsely attributed to an innocent person.
If a neighbor has wronged us in some way, Jesus wants us to give that neighbor a chance to recognize his/her wrongdoing and make a change. Instead of destroying his name and reputation, Jesus teaches us today to be compassionate as our heavenly father is compassionate to our own wrongdoings. Go to your erring brother and with charity point out to him something in his conduct which is not proper for a Christian. We cannot remain indifferent nor tolerate the wrongdoings of others. Fraternal correction is most often the most neglected duty. Try to ask yourselves when was the last time that you have corrected an erring brother, a friend or a member of the family, or a confrere in a religious community? Is it not that most often we do not have the courage to approach an erring brother and tell him of his faults. We would rather comment behind our brother’s back on his wrongdoings.
One more important point – if you are not willing to accept correction from others, then never attempt to correct others. Fraternal correction is a two-way street. I am willing to correct other out of charity and I too am willing to be corrected.
Fraternal correction is always possible if we are willing to understand with humility and compassion the shortcomings of others. Jesus never condemned sinners, he never talked behind their backs about their sins. He always gave them chances to repent—a way to build people, and not to destroy them!