Sunday, September 6th 2020 | By Rev. Michael P. Hanifin
We are well into the month of September and on this 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, our readings are all about relationships. Among the many lessons we have learned from the global pandemic is the deep importance of the relationships and communities that impact our lives. Whether it is our families, neighbors, friends, and our parish family, we all need each other, and we need to be our best selves. Especially in this time, many people have behaved badly and had it televised on national news programs.
In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul gives us simple instructions to guide us in our treatment of others, reminding us what Jesus Himself taught: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is the overarching principal that guides Catholic Christians in our relationships, not only those who are near and dear to us, but also those who are on the margins of our relationships. The hymn written by the late Fr. Peter Scholtes comes to mind, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
In our Gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus further refines this instruction on our Christian relationships, even when they involve conflict. He says, “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.” Jesus teaches us to charitably confront the offending person directly and discreetly, with the goal of restoring the relationship if possible.
Today, people do not confront bad behavior but instead harbor bitterness and resentment, leading to broken and estranged relationships. Society seems so polarized with people taking opposite sides on issues and relationships. The only one who is served by societal unrest is the devil.
We bridge relationships in rocky waters always through the power and beauty of community life: “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I am in the midst of them.”
We all have a stake in one another because God has designed us in such a way that we must help each other on our journeys toward heaven. Instead of building walls between ourselves and our neighbor, we need to build relationship bridges, assuming the best of another, showing them compassion, mercy, kindness and especially charity.