A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.
If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you, 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.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”
Good News Reflection:
Sometimes we try so hard to be good Christians that we focus on the mercy side of love and neglect the other side of love: justice. As followers of Christ, we must love our enemies, but we must also let them reap what they sow, for this too is God’s way of helping people discover his love.
We must continually forgive those who sin against us repeatedly, but we must also speak up and ask them to go and sin no more.
God sets up boundaries in love for everyone who’s involved in any difficulty. Justice is the consequence of violating a boundary. In today’s first reading we see this in action. Earlier, Moses had crossed the line when he failed to be a good example to the people who observed and learned from him. Now, God would not let him lead the people all the way into the Promised Land.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus describes how to protect boundaries:
1. The word no: When someone sins against you, tell him gently but firmly that it isn’t right. In mercy, we forgive and we give people another chance. But if that doesn’t stop the sin, we must speak a louder “no!” by bringing in support from those who can verify that the sinner is behaving harmfully and must stop. Again, we mercifully let go of the past and hope for the best. And if that too fails, we must back up our “no!” with the help of the larger Church community.
Then, if the abuse continues, we must protect the victims by treating the sinner like “a Gentile or a tax collector”, i.e., a non-member of the Church, which means it’s time to bring in the civil authorities (if the sin is an illegal activity) and to end the sinner’s access to us. We never end the love, but we must treat that person as an outsider. It’s the boundary of: “No, you must face the consequences of being separated from me until you’ve sincerely repented.”
2. Binding and loosing: Tie up whatever needs to be tied up, and let go of whatever needs to go. In other words, the “Serenity Prayer”: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (i.e., let loose the grip that the sin has had on you by letting go of your desire to change the sinner), the courage to change the things I can (i.e., bind the situation to God’s power and to your own willingness to work hard to help), and the wisdom to know the difference.
Did you know that this is only the first half of the Serenity Prayer? The often forgotten second part is beautiful and important:
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
3. Support: Don’t endure it alone. In wanting to avoid the sin of gossip, we tend to share too little with others. Jesus, however, tells us that we experience his nearness and the Father’s power when we’re in the prayer support of friends. We’re to find two or three Christian companions who understand the issues and who will love the sinner while praying for him or her to repent. Their help affirms that we’re doing what’s right and necessary; without them we become vulnerable and succumb to doubt about ourselves and our mission to help the sinner reach conversion.
God has already set up protective boundaries against evil through his commandments. You and I are called to stand with him on the holy side of the line and make it plainly visible to those who don’t see it or don’t want to see it. This is very vital to bringing God’s love more fully into the world.
Forgive me, Lord, for the times I refused my brothers’ and sisters’ corrections. Forgive me for not correcting the others with mercy and humbleness. Thank You for reminding me that we are all necessary to build Your Church. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica