First Reading: From the Book of Ezekiel 33:7-9
7 ‘Son of man I have appointed you as watchman for the House of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them from me.
8 If I say to someone wicked, “Evil- doer, you are to die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked person to renounce such ways, the wicked person will die for this guilt, but I shall hold you responsible for the death.
9 If, however, you do warn someone wicked to renounce such ways and repent, and that person does not repent, then the culprit will die for this guilt, but you yourself will have saved your life.
Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
1 Come, let us cry out with joy to Yahweh, acclaim the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving, acclaim him with music.
6 Come, let us bow low and do reverence; kneel before Yahweh who made us!
7 For he is our God, and we the people of his sheepfold, the flock of his hand. If only you would listen to him today!
8 Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as at the time of Massah in the desert,
9 when your ancestors challenged me, put me to the test, and saw what I could do!
Second Reading: From the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 13:8-10
8 The only thing you should owe to anyone is love for one another, for to love the other person is to fulfil the law.
9 All these: You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and all the other commandments that there are, are summed up in this single phrase: You must love your neighbour as yourself.
10 Love can cause no harm to your neighbour, and so love is the fulfilment of the Law.
Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of St. Matthew 18:15-20
15 ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.
16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: whatever the misdemeanour, the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain the charge.
17 But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a gentile or a tax collector.
18 ‘In truth I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 ‘In truth I tell you once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven.
20 For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them.’
Theme: If your Brother Sins Against you
What’s the best way to repair a damaged relationship? Jesus offers his disciples spiritual freedom and power for restoring broken or injured relationships.
Don’t brood over an offense – speak directly and privately
What can we learn from Jesus’ instructions about how to mend a damaged relationship (Matthew 18:15-20)? If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus says the first step is to speak directly but privately to the individual who has done the harm. One of the worst things we can do is brood over our grievance. This can poison our mind and heart and make it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage.
Seek the help of wise Christians
If we truly want to settle a difference with someone, we need to do it face to face. If this fails in its purpose, then the second step is to bring another person or persons, someone who is wise and gracious rather than someone who is hot-tempered or judgmental. The goal is not so much to put the offender on trial, but to persuade the offender to see the wrong and to be reconciled. And if this fails, then we must still not give up, but seek the help of the Christian community. Note the emphasis here is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Christians who hopefully will pray and seek a solution for reconciliation based on Christian love and wisdom, rather than relying on coercive force or threat of legal action, such as a lawsuit.
Pray for the offender – for healing and reconciliation
Lastly, if even the Christian community fails to bring about reconciliation, what must we do? Jesus seems to say that we have the right to abandon stubborn and obdurate offenders and treat them like social outcasts. The tax-collectors and Gentiles were regarded as “unclean” by the religious-minded Jews and they resorted to shunning them. However we know from the Gospel accounts that Jesus often had fellowship with tax-collectors (as well as other public sinners), ate with them, and even praised them at times! Jesus refuses no one who is open to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.
Set no obstacle in seeking to heal your brother’s wound
When you are offended, are you willing to put aside your own grievance and injury in order to help your brother’s wound? The Lord Jesus wants to set us free from resentment, ill-will, and an unwillingness to forgive. The love of Christ both purifies and sets us free to do good to all – even those who cause us grief. The call to accountability for what we have done and have failed to do is inevitable and we can’t escape it, both in this life and at the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus will return. But while we have the opportunity today, we must not give up on praying for those who cause us offense. With God’s help we must seek to make every effort to win them with the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom. Do you tolerate broken relationships or do you seek to repair them as God gives you the opportunity to mend and restore what is broken?
“Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of your healing love and peace. Give me wisdom and courage to bring your healing love and saving truth to those in need of healing and restoration.”