Wednesday of the 19th Week of the Year

Matt 18:15-20

A Brother who Sins

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

I don’t remember very clearly how my parents settled our fights when we were young. There must have been some process of doing it because we learned to forgive each other in the end.

The reconciliation process Jesus suggests involves four stages: 1. Talk it over with the person who sinned against you, 2. Talk it over with him in the presence of witnesses, 3. Bring it to your church – community (pastor), 4. Don’t talk to him/her anymore. The last step seems to be the immediate solution that we often do. Understanding does not come by silence since there are no clarifications on both sides. When do we get the courage to confront without being vindictive or hurtful in return? Experience teaches us that many times when we talk to the person who hurt us, the hurt becomes less painful and we begin to understand the incident in a new fight. The Lord wants us to make this first step that we may see the light of wisdom in every encounter. (Fr. Bong Bongayan, SVD Bible Diary 2002)

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In a community, whether it be a family, seminary or a parish community, it can happen that someone offends another in a serious way, for example by insult, physical injury, cheating, stealing and so forth.

How to handle such situation? Kill him/her? (The solution of a savage). An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? (The Old Testament solution).

Jesus tells to talk, dialogue, open up communication with the offender. Jesus gives three steps in the process:

  1. Talk with the person privately and tell him/her how you feel about what was done to you. Sincerely says sorry and makes amends, the problem is solve. If the person however, does not listen to you, 2. Take  two or three friends of both of you and again bring forward your grievance. If still the sinner does not listen, 3. Bring up the matter in a family meeting, in the seminary class or community meeting or before the parish council, depending on the situation. 4. If the sinner will still not listen, he/she can be ostracized and treated as a non-member.

The hope is that the person who sins seriously will repent and be converted in his/her isolation and finally rejoin the family or parish community. Together with the talking or dialogue, prayer is most necessarily. You yourself can and should pray for the one who sins against you. And then the community, no matter how small, even two or three members, should pray for him/her. For Jesus says that He will be in that group gathered in His name. and His prayers, of course, are the most powerful. (Fr. Stan Flutz, SVD Bible Diary 2004)

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At Grace Lutheran Church in Atlanta, worshippers annually celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one with what they call a “burning service.” Each member of the congregation brings to the altar a paper on which he/she has written failures and mistakes, hatreds and ill will. Plus changes to be made during the New Year. The paper is dropped into a flaming urn. One year, two men who had once been friends, but had quarreled over a business deal stood side by side at the altar. After dropping their papers into the urn, they got up, faced each other and shook hands.

This can be a modern version of today’s gospel, a communal attempt at reconciliation. Any undertaking at reconciliation and forgiveness, however, starts from the heart. The flame that lights any “burning service” commences in the altar of the heart.

Jesus is reminding us to go and get reconciled with the one who hurt us as well as the one we offended. But most often, we want to condemn immediately the person without listening first to his/her side. We even want the whole community to know the wrong thing he/she has done. Is it because we want appear better? Why is it that most often we are happy putting the other to shame?

It matters, but only for a time, to know who was right and who was wrong. But the would pesters both parties, the damage collateral. Only reconciliation can heal both. May we be able to transcend our foul animosities into fragrant forgiveness. (Frt. Bong Suganob, SVD Bible Diary 2006)

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A BROTHER WHO SINS: if you have knife, you can actually cut today’s gospel text into two.

The first part of the gospel is about fraternal correction. The second part is about gathering together in prayer. Here the Lord also tells us that whatever we want will be given to us.

As I reflected in prayer over this Gospel text last night, I asked myself why the evangelist put fraternal correction before community prayer. I think the gospel message for us is very clear. The most important aspect of fraternal correction or the most effective way of fraternal correction is to pray for the person who needs to be corrected.

So many sins are committed in the name of fraternal correction. So many persons are hooked under the banner of constructive criticism. But how many of us really pray for the people we want to correct?

If you see something wrong or find fault in a person, the first thing we do is to get angry at the person. You try to control your anger, but if you cannot control your anger, you shout at the person who commits a mistake. If your able to control yourself and do not shout, what you will do, in all probability, will be to tell another person about it. And this is how gossip begins. Your action becomes gossip because you do not talk to the person who commits a mistake, perhaps out of fear of that person, so you talk about your experiences to somebody else.

But have you ever thought about this? If somebody commits an offense against you, then the first person you should talk to is not the person who commits the mistake, the first person to talk to is God.

If somebody has hurt you, talk to God about that person. Is somebody needs correction, talk to God about that brother or that sister. If somebody needs to be criticized, first talk to God about that criticism you want to say.

The most effective way of correcting people is by prayer. We must realize that it is not our good words that change the heart, it is not our beautiful words that make people change their ways, it is only the grace of God. Only God can change people, not us. Only the grace of God can convert hearts, not us. That is why prayer is the most important, vital instrument in fraternal correction.

We will pray today for the people we want to correct. We will pray today for the people we are tempted to criticize. And we will talk to God about them. And we will tell God, “Lord, I do not know how to say it but I just want to talk to you. I want to get angry in your presence. Lord, I want to correct. Please take care of that correction. I offer everything, I lift up my brother, my sister, my daughter, my son, my wife, my husband to you.” (Bp. Soc Villegas Only Jesus Always Jesus pp.173-174).

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VIRTUOUS ANGER (Mt 18:15-18): when somebody commits an offense against us, our first impulse is to punish the offender. Now there are two kinds of punishment. One type makes the person meting out the punishment feel better while the other kind makes the person being punished become better.

According to the gospel from Mark, our form of punishment should conform to the second kind. When we punish, it should not be such that we merely ventilate our anger or feel vindication.

Our goal when doling our punishments should be to make the offender correct himself. Thus psychologists usually advise us not to immediately punish when we are angry.

In the Scriptures we find an instance when Yahweh sees Israelites committing a mistake. Yahweh tells them: “Because of this, you Israelites will go into exile.” Here Yahweh is like a parent who sends his errant child to his room where he should stay until he has realize his mistake. This act is not done out of vengeance but out of love. In the case of the Israelites, Yahweh seeks their conversion.

As our gospel reading denotes, the point is not that we should not punish anybody at all cost, but that our punishment and rebukes should not be motivated merely by anger. They should not be occasion for ventilating anger. Our punishment should be motivated by love and concern for a brother or sister gone wrong. Our punishment should not be to make us feel better, but to make the offender a better person.

Thus we ask ourselves, “What kind of anger do I feel? Am I an impulsive person who flies into uncontrollable rage once I see something wrong?” it is always good to ask the Lord to make us patient. When we ask for patience let us implore the Lord to grant us the grace to correct, not simply to express our anger but so that other people will become better as a result of our anger. Only through this will our anger become life giving. Then our anger becomes God’s instrument for grace. (Socrates Villegas, Only Jesus Always Jesus, p. 212)

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When I joined a movement called Christ’s Youth in Action during my college years, I learned to be open and responsive to “fraternal correction.”  There were moments that we gathered together and expressed our concerns for our brothers and sisters. We let the person know the things that he/she needs to improve his/her character. We specified his/her mistakes with the intention of not dragging or putting him/her down but to help him/her to become a better person and leader.  needs to improve his/her character. We specified his/her mistakes with the intention of not dragging or putting him/her down but to help him/her to become a better person and leader. We were able to correct our own faults and failures by talking to each other face-to-face.

In our gospel, Jesus shows us the right attitude in correcting a person by telling him/her directly his/her faults with respect and love. Keep in mind that we correct a person because we care and we want to show how important that person is in our lives, being our brother or sister in Christ.

The secret of achieving holiness is to help reminding each other of our ways of life. Doing fraternal correction means that we are one family of God who helps one another to become holy. Fraternal correction therefore does not mean pulling each other down but rather pushing each other up to reach perfection. (Fr. Alan G. Bondoc, SVD Bible Diary 2009)

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See Today’s Readings:  Year I,   Year II

Back to: Wednesday of the 19th Week of the Year

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