OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel
Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Reaching Out to the Erring
Sometimes in the Bible we come across certain passages that are as relevant and practical in our lives today as they were thousands of years ago when they were first written. Today’s readings are good examples of such passages. Together they remind us that as faithful Christians it is our responsibility to reach out to our not-so-faithful brothers and sisters and bring them back into the fold. They even go on to recommend practical steps on how to go about doing this.
A young woman, Lydia, strayed from the church as a teenager. After nine years of experimenting with atheism, spiritism, and new age, she found her way back again to the church, by the grace of God. Relating her story, Lydia says that what hurt her the most in all her nine years of spiritual exile is that nobody in the church missed her. Nobody ever phoned or visited to find out what was wrong. “I got the impression that the church does not want me,” she said. Of course the church wants her. But what are we doing to help the many men and women in her situation find their way back into full communion with the church? Today’s readings invite us to review our I-don’t-care attitude toward fallen and lax members of the church, reminding us that, yes, it should be our business to reach out to them.
Why should it be our business whether somebody else decides to serve God or not? As members of the church, we are not just a priestly people who offer sacrifice, we are also a prophetic people, meaning, we are God’s spokespersons. Today’s first reading is, in fact, a compact job description that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel on what it means to be a prophetic person. To experience the force of the reading we shall do it again, appropriating it to our own situation.
So you, N… (name of member), I have made a sentinel for N… (name of church or community); whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
So now, what part of the “thou shalt not” do we not understand? The clear and practical nature of this message is continued in the gospel, where we are told not just what to do but how to do it.
“If another member of the church sins (against you), go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one” (Matthew 18:15). Some ancient manuscripts do not have the words “against you.” So we might be dealing with the case of a fellow believer who offends us personally (“sins against you”) or one who sins or errs in a general way as is the case in the first reading. In either case the directive is that those who are spiritually stronger (the offended party) take the initiative to reach out to those who are spiritually weak (the offending and erring member). In either case what is at stake is how to bring an erring member back into the fold, to full reconciliation and communion with God and with us. The motivation for this kind of Christian action is to “regain” your brother or sister, to restore the broken relationship, not primarily to denounce or find out who is right or wrong.
The passage recommends a procedure in three stages: (1) Approach the defaulting brother or sister person-to-person. (2) Go a second time accompanied by one or two trusted companions. (3) Bring the case before the local church. This may sound like a daunting procedure, but the good news is that in nine cases out of ten, we may never need to go beyond the first stage. An erring member approached in a personal and courteous manner is happy to come back without much resistance. Let us thank God for the clear and practical message of today’s readings. As good hearers of God’s word, the next step is for us to now go and put it into practice.
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Epistle
Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Do I Owe You?
A woman got married to a man who did not really love her. The man was very demanding and controlling. To make sure that she fulfilled all her obligations as wife, the man drew up for her a set of rules. His list of “do’ and don’ts” included such things as when she should get up in the mornings, when to serve his breakfast and what household chores she should do before he came back from work. Many years later this man died. With time this woman met another man who really loved her. Soon they were married. Her new husband did not give her a list of “do’ and don’ts.” He simply showered her with gestures of love and words of praise and compliment for everything she did. One day while cleaning the house, the woman finds the old list of “do’ and don’ts” that her former husband had made for her. Going through the list, she discovers that she has been doing those things and more for her new husband even though he did not given her any rules. More importantly, she has been doing them happily and without stress. There are two ways of meeting our obligations to one another. One is by law, the other is by love. Law multiplies where love is thin. Where love reigns, laws are often unnecessary.
Today’s 2nd reading is from Romans 13 where Paul turns to the subject of Christian moral conduct. Judging from what you hear in Christian circles, you would think that the primary Christian moral obligation is love. But Paul thinks it is deeper than that. For Paul, as we see in Romans 13, the primary moral obligation for Christians is the same as that for non-Christians. It is the commitment to justice.
Paul starts by giving us a broad definition of justice that covers the length and breadth of the entire field of human morality. Justice means to “Pay to all what is due them– taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due” (Romans 13:7). All our duties as human beings and as Christians – duties to God, to the state, and to one another – are covered under justice so understood. Take the Ten Commandments, for example. The first three commandments are on giving back to God what is due to Him as our creator and life-giver. The last seven commandments are on the debts we owe one another. In the opening verses of Romans 13, Paul has talked of our duties to support the state and the government. Again he speaks of it in terms of paying the debt we owe in justice.
When we realize that the one thing that is required of us in our dealing with God, with the state and with one another is justice, then the next question arises: how then do we fulfill this justice? This is where Christianity has something new to say. Whereas the Jewish religion, under Moses, thought that the best way to secure justice is by law, the Christian religion, under Jesus, gives a different answer. The better way to fulfill justice is by love and not by law. Hence Paul advices us here to “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). Love is the fulfilling of the law of justice, the debt we owe one another. The goal of the moral life remains to do justice. Love comes in as the best means to achieve this goal.
Today’s Christians will have some problem with this teaching. This is because we are used to seeing love as an option, as something we may choose to do or not do. Aren’t we free to love anyone we choose? Yes, but that is a different kind of love. Intimate relationship love (eros) and vested interest love (philia) are usually optional and voluntary. But the goodwill love (agape) which Paul speaks about here is a debt we owe in justice to God, to the state, to the Christian community, to one another, and to our very selves.
How often we hear the expression, “Do I owe you?”! We hear it, for example, when a beggar or someone in dire need insistently asks for help. We dismiss the needy person with the angry remark, “Stop bugging me. Do I owe you?” Of course, we do not owe them in the legal sense. But maybe, we do indeed owe them, in the moral sense that Paul is teaching us here. “Owe no one anything, except love.” If love demands that we help them out in their need, then we owe them. As Christians today, we suffer from a serious lack of awareness and sensitivity to our obligations to other people. When we hear that a country is devastated by drought and famine, do we owe them? When we hear that HIV-AIDS is wiping out generations of young people in certain countries, do we owe them? The legally minded among us will say, “No, we don’t.” But Paul today wants us to develop the awareness and moral sensitivity to say, “Yes, we do.” For us Christians, goodwill or kindness is not something we may choose to do or not do. It is a debt we owe to each and everyone.
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Homily # 1
The first reading is a passage from a new phrase in the prophetic ministry of Ezechiel and it occurs in the context of an invasion of Palestine by a hostile army. Just as a watchman who warns the people of impending danger is not to be blamed if they do not listen, so Ezechiel is not to be blamed if the people he preaches to do not reform their lives. But if he fails to preach to them, he must accept the blame.
The responsorial psalm is part of a standing liturgical reminder to Israel not to refuse reforming their faults at God’s bidding (“do not harden your hearts”). The context for this is the desert generation who left the slavery of Egypt in search of the promised land. This generation refused to believe that God was with them on their journey. For their disbelief they died in the desert, their journey a failure.
St. Paul in the second reading reminds the Romans that love is the key to obeying each of the commandments. Real love, the love which looks out for the interests of other people. For a person who really loves, other people come first.
In the passage from Matthew Jesus gives an instruction on how to handle a refractory disciple. The instruction prescribes a formal procedure in three steps: Step One: Private confrontation. If there is no success, then the next step is recommended. Step Two: The use of one or two additional formal witnesses. Failure here leads to a final step. Step Three: Resort to the community, i.e., the local church. If there is no success here the disciple is to be placed outside the communion of believers, i.e., “excommunicated”. Jesus says that the disciple is to be treated as a pagan or as a tax-collector. Jesus welcomed such persons into communion with him, but only if they showed signs of faith and repentance. God gives such a decision divine authority (the use the passive voice avoids mentioning God’s name unnecessarily; but Jesus’ listeners referred the authority to God automatically). Groups of the faith enjoyed Jesus’ presence for whatever scope they meet.
Members of the Church who view conditions of membership as being the same as citizenship in a civil government should think twice after hearing today’s readings. In a civil society dissent about fundamental policy is not only at times permitted, dissent is at times required in order to be loyal to God. But the Church in its fundamental teachings lives at a level much more profound. The leaders of the Church are invested with the authority of God, which means that they have to move within the bounds indicated to them by God, i.e., by being attentive to Scripture and Tradition, the two sources of revelation. The leaders of the Church in fundamental matters cannot do whatever they feel like. They are responsible to God for the flock entrusted to them. If they neglect to proclaim the message entrusted to them, God will hold them responsible. They are invested with the authority of God, but this authority is designed to help them and all of the Church’s members listen to God’s voice in the profoundly important matters of life involving principles of moral and religious action. The Church can function as it should only if all of its membersleaders and non-leaders alikeobey the fundamental call of Jesus to love. But precisely because love is the fundamental law of the Church’s existence, decisive action by the Church’s leaders is at times necessary if they are to remain true to their calling by God.
Homily # 2
Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20
What Do We Give Up to Inherit the Kingdom?
A friend and I were talking about how children practice the faith that parents try to pass on to them. I told him of a relative who has four children in their mid to late 30s. There is a large disparity in how they practice their faith although they all came from the same home environment. Two attend Mass weekly and are involved in parish ministries. Another is wishy-washy and attends Mass with no regularity. And another has not attended Mass in about 20 years. However, I sense that they all practice that one well-known characteristic of God: they love well.
My friend shared with me about his wishy-washy child and that he and his wife had a plan that they were to soon to embark upon. They proposed to have a personal, heart-to-heart talk with their child about practicing the faith. The child has the potential to be the spiritual leader at home, but has not yet lived up to that potential.
Practicing the Catholic faith is a requirement for the parents and godparents of a child to be baptized. At baptism, parents are asked if they will bring their child up in the faith. Similarly, the godparents are asked if they will help the parents. It is not possible to respond affirmatively to these questions if the parents and/or godparents are not practicing their faith.
The scripture readings today suggest what we must do as Christians. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was one of those people who told people what they needed to hear, whether they wanted to hear it or not. He quotes the LORD saying, “You I have appointed watchman” — “Warn the wicked” — “I will hold you responsible.”
And Matthew reinforces this statement in the gospel today. If your brother does something wrong, have it out with him privately, then with a witness, then with the community. Do all you can to warn him and help him change his ways. You have the responsibility to convert “your brother,” your family, friend, or acquaintance.
We Catholics, I think, are a little uncomfortable with this view. Could it be that we have become a little insular? How often do we look after ourselves, leaving those who have fallen by the way — or even those who have no interest — to their own devices, without any challenge, because we are more comfortable in our own cocoon of our personal encounters with our Lord?
In our society today, it may seem that “anything goes.” Being critical of others is not popular. In the name of “correctness,” we might even feel that everyone should be allowed to live as he or she sees fit, regardless of rules and regulations. It seems like the “contemporary” way.”
Members of the more outgoing charismatic churches often shock us with their direct challenges to those with little or no religious commitments. A nurse in an assisted living home had the nerve, or guts, to confront those who were near the stage of dying. She would say to them, “Have you made your peace with God?” “Oh, you don’t know God; don’t you think it’s about time to make the effort? The clock is ticking, you know, and God is waiting.” We might think that these seem to be shocking statements, or ill timed. But, isn’t that what we are being told quite clearly to do today?
We are often guilty of saying or thinking my partner, my friend, my child, or an associate, is on the wrong track, so I will pray for her or him. “Conversion from a distance” is nice and clean since no personal contact or involvement is required. But God is saying, “No!” I will hold you — you personally responsible!
This is the same message that the Spirit is speaking to our hearts today. We must take on the missionary responsibility we inherited at our baptism, get our hands dirty for God, be actively involved and use every means available to turn our brother, friend, partner, or child around. It is not enough for us to be a good, participating Christian while leaving others to their own devices, especially when they may be close family members!
We must speak out, privately. Then if that fails, call on the assistance of friends and the community. We need to do everything possible before we relent and leave them be.
This is serious. If we don’t, we carry the blame! If we love them, we will reach out to them in a pastoral way. And when we do, our God of love will be there with us. As St. Paul told us in today’s reading, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Homily # 3
THE FIRST PART OF TODAY’S GOSPEL IS A LESSON IN HOW TO MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR NEIGHBOR, HOW TO HANDLE A SITUATION WHEN SOMEONE HAS OFFENDED YOU. MOST STUDENTS OF SCRIPTURE AGREE THAT THESE ARE NOT THE REAL WORDS OF JESUS. THE REASONS ARE SIMPLE; JESUS SAYS IF ALL FAILS, TAKE THE CASE TO THE CHURCH; BUT THERE WAS YET NO CHURCH. ALTHOUGH THE TEXT OBVIOUSLY DOES NOT CONTAIN THE EXACT WORDS OF JESUS, SCHOLARS ALSO AGREE THAT THE PASSAGE GOES BACK TO SOMETHING WHICH JESUS DID SAY, AND IT WAS PROBABLY SOMETHING LIKE THIS: IF SOMEONE OFFENDS YOU, SPARE NO EFFORT TO REESTABLISH PEACE WITH THAT PERSON.
SOUND ADVICE. NOT LONG AGO THERE APPEARED IN NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF HOW TO GO ABOUT MAKING PEACE WITH THOSE WHO CONTRADICT AND OFFEND YOU. IN MY VIEW THAT DOCUMENT WILL TURN OUT TO BE ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DOCUMENTS ISSUED IN THE LAST 30 YEARS. I REFER TO THE LATE CARDINAL BERNARDIN’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF A PROGRAM CALLED “COMMON GROUND.” HE SUGGESTED THAT PROGRAM IN A DOCUMENT ENTITLED “CALLED TO BE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN A TIME OF PERIL.”
HERE IS WHAT THAT DOCUMENT AND PROJECT ARE ALL ABOUT. RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING, THE CHURCH HAS BEEN UNDER ATTACK. THE DOCTRINE OF LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, BE KIND TO YOUR ENEMIES, HAS MET RESISTANCE AND HOSTILITY IN EVERY CENTURY SINCE THE DEATH OF CHRIST. WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNGER, THOSE ATTACKS CAME FROM OUTSIDE THE CHURCH. TODAY, ESPECIALLY SINCE VATICAN II COUNCIL, THEY COME FROM WITHIN, OFTEN FROM THOSE MOST ACTIVE IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH. PARTY LINES ARE HARDENED; THERE IS POLARIZATION; THERE IS SUSPICION OF EVERY STATEMENT MADE BY BISHOPS OR EVEN BY THE HOLY FATHER. CANDID DISCUSSION IS INHIBITED. AND THE STATEMENTS ARE OFTEN EXPRESSED IN HOSTILE, ANGRY, UNBENDING TERMS.
IN THE FACE OF ALL THIS DIVISION, CARDINAL BERNARDIN, JOINED BY A COMMITTEE OF BISHOPS, PRIESTS, SISTERS, AND LAYPERSONS, SIMPLY SAID, “LET’S NOT QUARREL ANY MORE; LET’S SIT DOWN AND DIALOGUE ABOUT OUR PROBLEMS. AS BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST.” THE PLEA OF JESUS IN TODAY’S GOSPEL, MADE SHORTLY BEFORE HIS DEATH, WAS VERY MUCH LIKE THAT OF THE CARDINAL. LET’S LISTEN TO ONE ANOTHER,” SAID THE CARDINAL, “AND TRY TO UNDERSTAND ONE ANOTHER’S POINT OF VIEW RATHER THAN CONSTANTLY BE CONDEMNING ONE ANOTHER.”
THAT IS A METHOD OF MAKING PEACE OF THE HIGHEST ORDER. IT IS A MARVELOUS BRILLIANT MOVE IN EXACTLY THE RIGHT DIRECTION. AND AS IF TO CONFIRM THE NEED FOR SUCH AN INITIATIVE. THE PROPOSAL WAS SOON SHOT DOWN BY LEADERS OF THE CHURCH COALITION, BY CATHOLICS FOR A FREE CHOICE AND EVEN BY A FEW MEMBERS OF THE HIERARCHY WHO SAY YOU CAN’T DIALOGUE WITH ERROR. BERNARDIN ANSWERED THESE CRITICS IN A SECOND PUBLICATION HE SAID, “YES, DIALOGUE CAN SOMETIMES BE MIS-USED AND DIALOGUE IS NOT THE UNIVERSAL SOLUTION TO CONFLICTS; BUT IT CAN BE A POWERFUL INSTRUMENT, ANCHORED IN THE FUNDAMENTAL TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH, TO HEAL WOUNDS, TO PROMOTE UNDERSTANDING, TO BRING UNITY AMONG CHRISTIANS.”
I URGE YOU TO FOLLOW WITH INTEREST THIS PROPOSAL. IT IS THE FIRST TIME IN ALL THE HEAT GENERATED BY DISAGREEMENTS ABOUT THE COUNCIL, THAT SOMEONE HAS COME UP WITH A NATIONAL PROJECT TO HEAL THE CHURCH. AND HERE IS WHAT IMPRESSES ME MOST. WHEN THE PROJECT WAS PROPOSED, CARDINAL BERNARDIN WAS DYING OF PANCREATIC CANCER. INSTEAD OF BEING ON HIS KNEES PRAYING FOR THE HEALING OF HIS BODY, HE WAS PRAYING AND WORKING FOR A HEALING OF THE CHURCH. HIS PROJECT WILL CONTINUE AFTER HIS DEATH. I HOPE YOU SUPPORT IT IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE DETAILS OF THE PROGRAM AS THEY BECOME MORE SPECIFIC AND WHEN YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO PARTICIPATE THROUGH YOUR OWN PARISH OR ORGANIZATION, BY ALL MEANS DO SO.
Homily # 4
IT’S DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE ANY OF US CONFRONTING A PERSON OVER AN INSULT AS JESUS SUGGESTED IN TODAY’S GOSPEL.
HOWEVER, IN THE FIRST READING EZEKIEL PUTS IT IN A WAY THAT MAY BE MORE APPLICABLE. HE WRITES, “IF YOU DO NOT SPEAK OUT TO DISSUADE THE WICKED FROM HIS WAYS, THE WICKED SHALL DIE FOR HIS GUILT BUT I WILL HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH. BUT, IF YOU WARN THE WICKED, TRYING TO TURN HIM FROM HIS WAY, YOU SHALL SAVE YOURSELF.”
WE MIGHT JUSTIFY A LACK OF ACTION BY SAYING, “I SHOULD MIND MY OWN BUSINESS.” BUT THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO BE THE THRUST OF THESE TWO READINGS.
I’M REMINDED OF A FEW TRAGEDIES THAT HAPPENED RECENTLY. DO YOU REMEMBER THE COMMENTS MADE BY ALL THE EXPERTS AFTER THE SHOOTINGS AT COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL IN LITTLETON COLORADO? THE PRESS, THE TV COMMENTATORS AND THE BEHAVIOR EXPERTS SAID THE SAME THING, “WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE STOP THESE YOUNG MEN BEFORE THIS TRAGEDY HAPPENED? WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE ADVISE THEM? WHERE WERE THEIR TEACHERS, THEIR FELLOW STUDENTS, THEIR PARENTS?
THE SAME WAS SAID AFTER SHOOTINGS IN KENTUCKY, ATLANTA AND LOS ANGELES. FOR DAYS THE EVENTS WERE BIG NEWS WITH MANY SOURCES OFFERING ADVICE. WHAT HAPPENED? NOTHING. ALL THE SOLUTIONS WERE TOTALLY DEVOID OF ANY REFERENCE TO MORALITY, TO GOD’S COMMANDMENTS OR TO INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY. TO TEACH “THOU SHALT NOT KILL” IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL WOULD PROBABLY BE DEEMED UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
SO, WHAT IS GOD SAYING TO OUR SOCIETY AND TO US? HE’S SAYING, “YES, WE SHOULD BE INVOLVED. YES, WE ARE OUR BROTHER’S KEEPER.” BEFORE WE ARE OVERWHELMED WITH THE THOUGHT OF SUCH A RESPONSIBILITY, LET’S REMEMBER THAT MOST OF US ARE INVOLVED IN FOLLOWING HIS ADVICE. IF YOU ARE A GRANDPARENT, A PARENT, AN AUNT OR AN UNCLE YOUR ARE DOING JUST WHAT GOD ADVISES. YOU ARE LOVINGLY CORRECTING YOUR MOST PRECIOUS TREASURE, YOUR CHILDREN, NIECES AND NEPHEWS. YOU MAY BE SAYING TO YOURSELF, “GEE, I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT THAT WAY.”
THE SOCIETY IN WHICH YOU AND I LIVE CONDONES MANY TYPES VIOLENCE, PORNOGRAPHY, LYING, SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, ABORTION, ETC. ETC. THE TRAGEDY IS A SIMPLE ONE: NO ONE SEEMS TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST IT. SOME MIGHT SAY I SHOULDN’T REFER TO THESE CONDITIONS FROM THE PULPIT. BUT REMEMBER, JOHN THE BAPTIST TOLD EVERYONE, “REPENT.” THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS SAID THE SAME TO THE KINGS OF ISRAEL. SOME DIED FOR THEIR ADVICE … BUT THEY FOLLOWED GOD’S ADVICE … THEY SPOKE OUT.
GOD IS SAYING TO US, “”IF YOU DO NOT SPEAK OUT TO DISSUADE THE WICKED FROM HIS WAY, I WILL HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS DEATH.”
SO, WHAT DO WE DO. I THINK THE FIRST THING WE MUST DO IS PRAY.
THE LAST LINE OF THE GOSPEL ELLS IT ALL: WHERE TWO OR THREE OR GATHERED IN MY NAME, THERE AM I IN THE MIDST OF THEM”
HUSBAND AND WIFE SAYING A ROSARY IN YOUR CAR WHILE DRIVING TO A PARTY. GOD IS THERE. THE FAMILY SAYING GRACE BEFORE MEALS, EVEN WHEN IN A RESTAURANT. “I AM THERE IN THE MIDST OF THEM.”
THE SECOND THING WE MUST DO IS CONTINUE ON THE PATH WE HAVE TAKEN. WE MUST CONTINUE TO TRAIN OUR CHILDREN IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD. AND I WOULD SAY TO THE TEENS AND THE YOUNG ADULTS, “LISTEN CLOSELY TO THESE READINGS. GOD IS CHALLENGING YOU TO AVOID THE EXCESSES OF TODAY’S SOCIETY. HE IS ALSO CHALLENGING YOU TO HELP YOUR FRIENDS AND TO
BE THE ROLE MODEL THEY NEED. WITH DRUG USAGE RAMPANT IN THE WORLD OF THE YOUNG, YOU COULD ACTUALLY BE SAVING THEIR LIVES.”
JESUS SAYS .. WE MUST SPEAK OUT. NOT GET ON A SOAPBOX AND PREACH BUT LET THE EXAMPLE OF OUR LIVES, OUR CHRISTIAN BELIEFS, SEND A MESSAGE THAT IS LOUDER THAN HARASSING OTHERS WITH SERMONS. AND WE MUST SPEAK OUT IN PUBLIC …. WRITE LETTERS TO THE NEWSPAPERS … PARTICIPATE IN RADIO TALK SHOWS … HAVE THE COURAGE TO BE HEARD.
YOU MAY BE THINKING, “GEE, I’D BE EMBARRASSED TO DO THAT.”
WHAT’S THE PENALTY IF WE DON’T SPEAK OUT? GOD SAYS, “IF YOU WARN THE WICKED, TRYING TO TURN HIM FROM HIS WAY, AND HE REFUSES, HE SHALL DIE BUT YOU SHALL SAVE YOURSELF.”
OF COURSE, THERE’S ANOTHER SIDE OF THIS MESSAGE. WE MUST REMEMBER THAT JESUS WAS SPEAKING TO THE HIS DISCIPLES. HE WASN’T TEACHING THEM THEOLOGY.
HE WAS TALKING TO THEM ABOUT THEIR EVERYDAY LIVES. AND OUR EVERYDAY LIVES. WHAT ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL IN THIS GOSPEL WHO WAS SO OBSTINATE? WHOSE ACTION NECESSITATED BRINGING IN AN ARBITER OR THEN THE WHOLE CHURCH? OBVIOUSLY, THAT’S BEING PRETTY HARD HEADED.
IS JESUS SPEAKING TO US REGARDING THAT SITUATION? YES. HE IS SPEAKING TO US ABOUT OUR LIVES. SO HOW DOES THIS MESSAGE APPLY TO US?
I’M SURE NONE OF THE HUSBANDS OR WIVES HERE HAVE EVER HAD A DISAGREEMENT. I’M ALSO CERTAIN THAT NONE OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE HERE HAVE EVER DISAGREED WITH YOUR PARENTS.
WELL, MAYBE A FEW TIMES. WHEN IT HAPPENS, DON’T WE IMMEDIATELY GET DEFENSIVE ABOUT OUR ACTIONS? “NOT ME …I COULD NEVER BE WRONG!.”
BUT, JESUS IS SAYING WHEN THERE IS A DISAGREEMENT, LISTEN TO THE OTHER PERSON. YOUR SPOUSE, YOUR PARENT OR, EVEN, YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE A LEGITIMATE POINT TO MAKE.
JESUS IS SAYING OUR FIRST REACTION SHOULD BE ONE OF CONSIDERATION. ASK YOURSELF, “IS THIS A REASONABLE STATEMENT MY SPOUSE, MY PARENTS JUST MADE? CONSIDER THE FACT THAT … WELL… MAYBE I SHOULD REACT POSITIVELY IN THIS SITUATION. IN ANY EVENT, JESUS WANTS US TO LOVINGLY CONSIDER
THE OTHER PERSON’S POINT OF VIEW. WE MAY NOT TOTALLY AGREE BUT DOESN’T A LOT OF THE FRICTION IN A FAMILY AND IN OUR WHOLE SOCIETY COME FROM NOT REALIZING THAT REQUESTS AND SUGGESTIONS BY OTHERS MAY BE GIVEN WITH A LOVING ATTITUDE. AT LEAST WE CAN ASSUME THAT.
AND SO, TODAY, JESUS DELIVERS TWO IMPORTANT MESSAGES TO US.
NUMBER 1, DO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE EVILS THAT WE SEE AROUND US. AND SECOND, HONESTLY LOOK AT ANY SUGGESTIONS WE RECEIVE IN THE LIGHT THERE MAY BE MERIT IN THEM.
JESUS HAD MANY DIFFICULT CHOICES TO MAKE WHILE HERE ON EARTH. PRAY TODAY THAT WE CAN MAKE CHOICES IN THE SAME MANNER HE DID.
Why fraternal correction is needed
By BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD
THERE was once a manager in an office who had been drinking heavily. Everybody was talking behind his back. Because he was the boss, nobody dared broach the problem to his attention. He was heading over the precipice.
Until one day a guy mustered enough courage to approach him. Instead of talking about him, he talked to him.
* * *
“Sir, we’ve observed that you’re drinking too much,” he began. “Don’t you see you’re killing yourself? If you don’t stop, you’ll destroy yourself – and us.”
That encounter was an eye-opener. Remorseful, the manager eventually took the painful steps to rehabilitate himself. He changed because someone had the guts to stand up to him.
* * *
A man was seen constantly with another woman who was not his wife. His friends talked, even joked as he drifted to extramarital affair. Poor guy, his marriage broke up. All the friends could say was, “I could see it coming,” but why did they not budge a finger to call his attention?
* * *
Many of us have the notion that loving someone means always agreeing or not hurting his or her feelings. But true love and friendship also means criticising or disagreeing when a loved one goes astray. And sometimes the best service you can do to a person you love is to disagree with him when he is not doing right.
* * *
The gospel of the 23rd Sunday says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault” (Mt 18:15). In teaching us about responsibility for others, Christ says that part of love is to correct the faults of others.
The gospel message also teaches us that when we have to correct people, like a spouse, a child, a friend, a co-worker, it should not be too harsh, but done gently and in the spirit of charity and concern. Put differently, you should disagree without being disagreeable.
* * *
The writer Frank Clark puts it thus, “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Just as too much water destroys a plant so does too much negative criticism destroys a person’s growth.
* * *
“Keep it between the two of you,” Christ says. If you really think that your husband is not spending enough time at home, tell him – and not to your next-door neighbor or friend. On the other hand, if you think your wife is being too “sosyal” and does not attend to the household chores, tell her, and not to your “barkada.”
* * *
It’s not easy to speak out. But it is usually better to risk having a friction and solve a problem, rather than allow it to fester till it explodes or push the couple farther and farther away from each other.
In trying to correct other’s faults – whether it be a spouse, a son or daughter, a friend or colleague – the following Aesop’s fable is worth pondering: Once the sun and wind made a bet as to who was mightier as to compel a guy wearing a jacket to remove it.
* * *
“That’s easy,” the wind bragged as it blew hard and violent. But the more he did, the more the man wrapped his arms around his jacket. After several more attempts, the wind gave up.
It was the turn of the sun. Using no force, he simply kept raising the temperature. In no time, the man started to perspire. Unable to bear the heat, he quickly removed his jacket! The moral? A persevering, gentle approach is more effective than a harsh and violent one.
* * *
ASK YOURSELF: If your attention is called upon about a fault, do you get angry? Or would you rather reflect if there’s some truth and if so, then humbly strive to correct your fault?
Do you regard fraternal correction as something negative or rather positive in that it will help you see your defects, reform yourself and thus become a better person pleasing to the Lord?
* * *
To be corrected is not easy because it hurts us emotionally, but taken in the right spirit, it can cure – much like a bitter medicine does. Also, because of the weakness of our human nature, we will always find fraternal correction necessary in our lives.
Within, between and among us
By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:47:00 09/06/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The story is told about a man who was elated with a satellite dish he bought for only P500. The dish, when connected to his television set, would give him access to unlimited satellite-fed programs. There was one hitch though: he had to direct the dish toward the exact location of the satellite, and for that, he needed to buy a telescope that cost about P50,000.
* * *
In today’s Gospel (Mt. 18, 15-20), the Lord tells us to direct our attention to fraternal correction, a difficult but an important aspect of our Christian life. We cannot just overlook or deny the reality and the need to correct mistakes and mend broken relationships. Are there people you need to correct? Are there truths you need to point out? The truth hurts, and the process of pointing out the truth is painful, but the truth does set us free.
* * *
How far easier to mind one’s own business. How far simpler indeed to just let things be. However, we all have a prophetic calling to speak up and stand up for truth and goodness, not out of self-righteousness or pride, but out of love and obedience to God who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
* * *
Christianity is not just about me and my God, but about me, my neighbor and our God. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is not just within us but between us, and among us. Going to heaven is not some contest wherein the holiest among us will get the first place. Rather, it is the joining of hearts and hands, and the helping of each other so that we all will get there somehow.
* * *
Have you brought anybody closer to God? Have you shared your faith to others? Have you made other people feel and experience God’s love? Or have you been too focused on yourself, and too selfish of your God? Our God is a God who wishes that His love be made known to all through you, and even in spite of you. What have you done about this, and what are you doing the rest of your life about it?
* * *
We all know that prayer is powerful, but what we need to know more is the power of community prayer. The Lord reminds us today: “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” Why is there not much change in our country today? Perhaps it’s because we are not praying enough, and we are not praying much as a people and as a country.
* * *
I have been saying Masses in different parishes in Los Angeles for a week now, in line with our evangelization work with the Healing Eucharist TV Mass (TFC), and as part of my task at the SVD Mission Office. It is elating and recharging to be with Filipino communities that are eager to hear God’s word. It is really an edifying experience to feel the Lord’s presence in our midst in a foreign land. I always end my homily with the words: “Remember, wherever you are, you are there and God is there!”
* * *
Sept. 8 is Mama Mary’s birthday. As sons and daughters of the Blessed Mother, let us always do what is pleasing to the Father, what is beneficial to others and what cleanses us sinners. May Mama Mary bless our families and our beloved land.
* * *
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, remind me that You are within, between and among us always. Amen.
Art of fraternal correction
Brokenness, mistake, sin… are popular things in our human life. So correcting one another is also a common thing. Unfortunately, fraternal correction at times leads to more wounds because we don’t know how to do it well. Therefore, how to correct one another in order to regain peace and harmony is truly an art. I’d like to invite you to meditate today on “the art of fraternal correction”. First let’s look at some practical following cases. The question to help your meditation is: “Do you agree with the ways or manners practiced by these correctors?”
Case 1: At that time, while many people were present, she criticized him: “You are a catechist but you don’t behave yourself. Last week I saw you as drunk as a skunk.” He was dead embarrassed.
Case 2: A woman neighbor told P: “You are a daughter-in-law. You should not have been impertinent to your mother-in-law. You were supposed to be modest and gentle to her in your explanation about what had happened.”
“Ma’am, when did you see me behave that way?”
“I heard that rumor.”
“You heard it from whom?”
“Hmm, I don’t remember anymore.”
Case 3: Mr. R gave his friend advice: “Hey, don’t gamble anymore. You waste your money of your sweat and tears in those casinos. Be careful lest your children see your bad example and follow it.” His friend seemed to be not very happy about his advice. He then got angry and said: “Since you don’t listen to my sincere words, from now on, I will no longer bother with you.” Since then on, he did not have any connection with this friend to avoir bad reputation and complications.
Do you agree with the ways those correctors use?
Now let us learn one of the ways of fraternal correction practiced among the first Christian communities in the spirit of Jesus: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church…” (Mt 18:15-17)
There are three concrete steps here. The first step is to meet the wrongdoer in private. Meeting in private is something suitable and profitable for the human psychology because it can create a place for attentive listening and mutual understanding. One of the grave mistakes that lack both charity and skill is to hurryingly make known the fault of that person in front of others, which makes him/her ‘lose face’. When meeting in private, one thing to avoid is a judging attitude because it will shut all the doors of compassionate dialogue and force the person into a tendency of ‘self-defense’ instead of a calm reflection. And, one of the very useful questions that needs to be asked [before other questions] is: “Do you have any difficulty related to this matter that I may help you with?” This question will give the person an opportunity to share hidden difficulties behind the fault. Once he/she confides in us, we should guarantee that we will keep what has been shared confidential, and we will not tell anyone else without their permission. Our sincere and generous attitude is a good condition that helps facilitate the process of conversion. Only when the first step fails is the second step applied: invite one or two objective witnesses to discern with us in effort to find more solutions to help. We should avoid telling the story to some others and then asking them to join us in pressuring the sinning brother or sister. Therefore, these witnesses need to be the people who saw what happened objectively and who come here out of love for the person. The more loving hearts, the more creative solutions. If the second step should fail, the third step suggested here is to bring the case to the Church so that the Church can pray for him/her and find more ways to help. The reason to bring it to the Church is because the Church (in the just sense) is the source of fraternal charity, the place where every member cares for one another and helps one another live a good holy life. We see that from the first step up to this point is a long process with patience and love in order to ‘free’ the broken brother or sister from harm and evil. Now there is the fourth step, and this step is radical. Jesus says: “if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Mt 18:17b) This is the ‘last solution’ in the art of fraternal correction. When we first hear this teaching, with our judging habit, we may feel uneasy because it seems that Jesus is teaching us to ‘exclude’ the person from the community. How do you think?
Actually, the issue is very simple. To understand the nature of this teaching, we only need to answer one question: “How does Jesus treat a pagan, a tax collector or a sinner?” Has he ever rejected or excluded them? No, never. On the contrary, he loves them with all his heart. He comes to them, socializes with them, listens to them, helps them, and treats them with generosity, respect and compassion. He embraces them, cries with them and shares their pain. This fourth step well then turns out to be the climax of the art of fraternal correction. When all the efforts to correct the wrongdoer by words have failed, the greatest and most valuable correction is the enduring love for him/her. We can see that beneath all the actions is the unconditional compassion for that brother or sister, even when all our good intentions and efforts have been refused or denied.
You can pose a question here: “Is this last step feasible or is it just a nice theory?” A very practical question! I’d like to invite you to find the answer right in your own lived experience. Have you ever hardened your heart before the good words of Jesus? Have you ever remained untouched or unmoved by his wise teachings? If you have, you share one thing in common with me! But my dear friend, have you ever felt truly touched and transformed just because Jesus’ unfailing patience, acceptance and love for you, despite all the wrong you have done? If you have, you share another thing in common with me! It is this thing that affirms the validity and effectiveness of the fourth step above: When all the efforts to correct the person by words have failed, the greatest and most valuable fraternal correction is our enduring love for him/her.
Dear friend, the basic goal of fraternal correction is to help free the brother or sister from difficulties in life, not to cause more wounds to a broken soul. Let us ask Jesus to help us be more humble through our own mistakes and faults. Especially, let us ask him to help us be more sympathetic with the weaknesses of others. In case we need to give a fraternal correction, may it be an art of sincere love.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.
By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD
September 2, 2011, 10:26pm
MANILA, Philippines — A friend was seen often in the company of a woman who was not his wife. His friends gossiped, talked, even joked as he drifted to extramarital affair. Poor guy, his marriage broke up. All the friends could say was, “I could see it coming,” but they never budged a finger to call his attention.
Many of us have the notion that loving someone means always agreeing or not hurting his or her feelings. But true love and friendship also means criticizing positively or disagreeing when a loved one goes astray. Sometimes that’s the best service you can do to a person you love
* * *
In the gospel of this 23rd Sunday, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault” (Mt 18,15). In teaching us about responsibility for others, Christ says that part of love is to correct the faults of others.
When we have to correct people, however, it should not be harsh, but should be done gently in the spirit of charity and concern. As the writer Frank Clark puts it, “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Just as too much water destroys a plant so does too much negative criticism destroys a person’s growth. I know of strict parents who keep on scolding and negatively criticizing their children.
The kids grew up to be shy before people because they lacked self-esteem and confidence.
* * *
“Keep it between the two of you,” Christ says. If you really think that your husband is not spending enough time at home, tell him – and not to your next-door neighbor or friend. Or, if you think your wife is socializing too much and has no time for the household chores, tell her, and not to your barkada.
It’s not easy to speak out. But it is usually better to risk having a friction and solve a problem, rather than allow it to fester till it explodes or push the couple to break up.
* * *
In trying to correct other’s faults, the following Aesop’s fable is worth pondering: Once the sun and wind made a bet as to who was mightier as to compel a man wearing a jacket to remove it.
“That’s easy,” the wind bragged as it blew hard and violent. But the more he did, the more the man wrapped his arms around his jacket.
It was the turn of the sun. Using no force nor violence, he simply kept raising the temperature. In no time, the man started to perspire. Unable to bear the heat, he quickly removed his jacket! The moral? A persevering, gentle approach is more effective than a harsh and negative one.
* * *
ASK YOURSELF: When you see a relative, a friend, or co-worker going astray, do you try to call his or her attention, as the Lord tells us? And when you’re corrected, do you get angry? Or would you rather reflect that there may be some truth and be guided accordingly?
Because we are all human having weaknesses and faults, fraternal correction will always be necessary.
* * *
In, between and among us
By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:49 pm | Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
Someone once said that there are two kinds of people who don’t say much – those who are quiet… and those who talk a lot.
* * *
In today’s Gospel (Mt. 18, 15-20), Jesus gives us guidelines on when to keep quiet and when to talk, particularly in line with fraternal correction. We cannot be quiet and play safe, nor can we be too vocal to the point of becoming tactless and offensive. But more than the technique, what should be emphasized is that all corrections are done out of concern and love.
* * *
“Better to hurt me with the truth rather than comfort me with your lies.” Truth can hit us hard. The truth hurts, but it is better to experience closure with pain rather than a never-ending agony, or a guessing game.
* * *
Breaking bad news to a person is never easy to do. But the truth has to be said, and someone has to do it. How far easier to be quiet, or not to get involved! Or perhaps postpone it some other day. But there is one rule we should never forget: Face the light, and the shadow is behind you; turn your back to the light, and the shadow will always be in front of you.
* * *
Confronted with the truth, some accept it and grow with it. But some refuse it, deny it or fight it. The end-result of the former is peace, while that of the latter is agony and misery. Confronted with the truth, we can choose to accept it and be free, or deny it and prolong the agony.
* * *
There is a story of a priest who had a high regard of himself and his homilies. He told his congregation that he planned to have his homilies published someday after his death. One man stood up and said: “The sooner the better, Father!” Yes, we must learn to really listen to others, and to really listen to God, and to life itself. If we listen only to ourselves, that would lead us to the road of denial and delusion.
* * *
By the way, last Aug. 29, we celebrated our National Heroes’ Day. To those who sacrificed and who continue to sacrifice for our people and for our country, we say “Thank You!” But to those who have stolen and continue to steal from our people and from our country – the “national thieves” – to them we say, shame on you!
* * *
To our national thieves, remember this: You are comfortable and carefree, while our people are hungry and live in poverty because you stole their money! May this truth make you uncomfortable and miserable.
* * *
Jesus teaches us today the value of pressure in correcting a wrong. When gentle persuasion does not work, then it is time for more drastic and more radical measures. In other words, we don’t give aspirin to someone who has cancer. It is time for the Church not just to talk about issues, but to really get organized and address issues concretely. When snakes are at our doorsteps, and in our very homes, we must do something to protect the family, especially the children.
* * *
September 8 is Mama Mary’s birthday. She was one who accepted a lot of painful truths and went through a lot of trials and sufferings in obedience to her mission from God. Please remember that her “Thy will be done” meant not only surrendering and accepting, but also making sure that God’s will is carried out and really done. Let us not just be passive, but let us be active and pro-active in doing God’s will in the here and now.
* * *
September 8 is also the birthday of the SVD, the Society of the Divine Word. May we Divine Word Missionaries continue to be witnesses of the Word to the world by our very lives and through our various apostolates so that “the heart of Jesus lives in the hearts of all.”
* * *
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Let us not forget that the Kingdom of God is not only within us but also between us, and among us. It is time for us to go beyond our comfort zones and beyond our emotional or devotional expressions of our faith, and make the Kingdom of God and its Gospel values of truth, goodness and love really happen. Let us all ask ourselves today how to make God’s presence a felt reality and an empowering force in our midst.
* * *
Instead of having a wall, why don’t we try having God in us, between us and among us? A lot of problems and misunderstandings can be resolved if we welcome this quiet presence and this silent listener in our midst. Let us give God a chance, give Him room in our midst and in our hearts.
* * *
Speaking of giving room, it’s September already, and Christmas is not far behind. In the midst of many cares and struggles, we look forward to that season of hope and love. Soon Christmas decorations will start appearing around us. But that’s precisely the point: Christmas is not just about decorations. It is something that happens in, between and among us, and not just around us.
* * *
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, remind us of your living presence, in us, between us and among us. Amen.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A
Back to: Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)