Message for Sunday, September 6, 2020

Reflection on the Gospel Reading Matthew 18: 15-20

My Brothers & Sisters,

 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have gained your brother…” Mat. 18:15

I share with you this week a reflection on the Gospel reading for today by Herbert O’Driscoll.

Unfortunately, there are far too many Chtristians today who pay no heed to the serious obligation of encouraging an erring brother to give up his sinful ways.  They shrug it off by saying: “I have more than enough to do to keep myself from sin” or “am I my brother’s keeper?”

There are, alas, millions of lapsed or luke-warm Christians who could and would have been active members of Christ’s mystical body if their neighbours had fulfilled this grave obligation which Christ has imposed on us all

It is no use crying over spilt milk!  Let us see our present-day obligations and what we are doing to help our neighbours retain their Christian faith and practice.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault

Behind the deceptive simple admonition is a great challenge and great wisdom.  The challenge lies in the fact that personal confrontation is something few enjoy, and many will do a great deal to avoid.  When we do manage to pluck up the courage to do it, we need skill and sensitivity if the meeting is to serve a positive prupose.  In recent years much work has been done to help people to handle such an encounter so that their protest against a felt wrong or hurt is heard by the “brother” or sister.”  It is also important that the conversation makes possible a continued and even improved relationship afterwards.  As Jesus says, “if he listens to you, you have gained a brother,”

In that case, the relationship has a future, even possibly an enhanced one.

But If he does not listen

Every possible effort is to be made to avoid a final breach.

The next stage of encounter may be greatly helped by the presence of a very small and trusted group.  Both sides can be heard and what is heard can be checked by others less involved.  Both parties may learn they have unrealized agenda.

Tell it to the Church

This could mean a larger group of friends within a congregation.  This is possible if a network of trust and affection has been built up.  After all, such involvement of carefully chosen friends is an extension of their regular exchanging of the Peace.  It could be a test of the reality of that.  Only if this fails, does our Lord accept the breakdown of relationship.

Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them

The words “in my name” are important,  If two people who share the fellowship of the faith must work through a situation of strained and troubled relationship, there is no reason why such an encounter cannot be offered in prayer and the presence of Our Lord recalled.  To do this the presence of a third party might well be desirable, to avoid any feeling that the person suggesting the prayer is trying to manipulate the situation or trying in some way to occupy higher moral ground!  This scripture may seem to emerge out of forms of Christian community no longer available to us in today’s society.  I suggest this need not be true where bonds of real community have been forged in a parish.

Think on these things!