23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - A

GOSPEL REFLECTION (23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - A)
7th September 2014
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines

GOSPEL (Matthew 18:15-20) On Fraternal Correction

Jesus spoke to his disciples, "If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If he or she listens to you, you have regained your brother or sister. But if the person does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the person refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if that person refuses to listen even to the Church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

Frank Mihalic,SVD (1000 Stories You Can Use) told of an anecdote of the old Philosopher Socrates. When Socrates was a boy, he chanced upon a man who was trying to unlock a door. The key would not work. The fellow bit the key and kicked the door. It opened. Since then, Socrates promised to himself never to give way to anger.

And it worked - years later. One day his very critical complaining wife tongue lashed him for some trivial matter. Socrates kept his cool. And as he was walking away from her, his wife threw a pail of water at him.

But Socrates instead of getting angry just philosophically remarked, "Well, after thunder, we usually do get a shower, don't we?"

There are no such thing as perfect relationships simply because there are no perfect people. We all have our flaws. We all commit mistakes. In any relationship - be it family relationships , relationships between friends or relationships among people in society ,at our work place, at school and even in the Church, there will always be conflicts. No matter how much people try to have peace all the time - arguments, misunderstandings, disagreements, and even fights will always transpire along the way even when you least expect it. Having relationship issues, therefore, are inevitable. Good relationships don't just happen. It takes a lot of hard work to make relationships really work. It takes a lot of patience, humility and the will for people to truly want to build good relationship. Having said that, however,a successful relationship is not impossible despite our differences and idiosyncrasies. But how can we have a successful relationship? Well. this what this Sunday's Gospel text is trying to teach us. Jesus in today's Gospel is teaching us a lesson on what to do every time some issues occur in any relationship. Jesus is teaching us a lesson on fraternal correction. Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone." But how do we correct one another? How do we encourage one another to do what is right? As for me, the very first thing to do is to look into our hearts, analyze our actions like whose fault is it really? So many times that we cannot admit our faults. Because of pride at times instead of accepting our own mistakes we would do anything within our means to prove others wrong. It is easier for us to judge other people. And even if we realized we're wrong , apologizing wouldn't be easy to do. That creates more tensions and more conflicts.

As I reflect on today's Gospel text there are important things that we should consider in order for us to be able to contribute in creating successful relationship:

First, Humility. Pope Francis spoke of the importance of humility in order to dialogue with a brother or a sister. Fraternal correction, therefore, should be done in the spirit of humility. A humble person is never judgmental.We can learn a great deal of lesson from Pope Francis who said "Who am I to judge?" Judge not lest we be judged! There is one journey that we as Christians have to make i.e. a journey from pride to humility , from self-centered to Christ-centered.

Second, Forgiveness. Learn to forgive. Find ways to be reconciled and reach out. Pope Francis said that whenever there's conflict look for peace as soon as possible. Always find a solution. He emphasized the need to build bridges rather than walls, like the one that divided Berlin for so many years. The Pope further says that "even in our heart there is the chance to become the Berlin wall to others. I am afraid of these walls that grow everyday and foster resentment. And hate."

Third, Love. We always have to find ways to love. In any conflict, find ways to love. Even if we feel oppressed , find ways to love. Even if we are hurt or we feel something unjust is done to us , we should find ways to love. This would be our identity as Christians i.e LOVE! They'll know we are Christians by our love. We opted to love , as Christ as our model, despite the fact that in so many cases it is never easy to do so. This is God's greatest commandment that we should love our fellowmen - sinner or saint. But who says loving is easy? Finding love specially to the unlovable is never easy.It is easier said than done. Even among members of our own family. Mother Teresa once said "It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start." One time , I blessed a couple in their 50th Wedding Anniversary. The husband shared the many challenges in their married life.He said that part of their married life are the many fights, and arguments but they followed the lesson they learned from a passage from the Ephesians 4:26 which says "If you are angry let it be without sin, the sun must not go down on your wrath." There's wisdom in it , whenever conflict occurs, do not wait till tomorrow to patch up things!