Today’s Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching His disciples about how to handle conflict with each other. He gives three steps: if someone wrongs you, you approach that person, and if you’re able to resolve your conflict, then all is well and harmony is restored. If that doesn’t work, ask a couple of your trusted friends to mediate. If that doesn’t work still, then get “the church” involved, and if that fails to remedy the situation, then let that person go (cf. Matt. 18:15-17). Of course, the ideal situation is the first scenario—oh that all conflicts can be resolved quickly between the people involved!
With regards to the second situation, I am reminded of the age-old question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” This quotes Cain in Genesis where he asks that question after committing a grievous sin against his brother, Abel (Gen. 4:9). Cain harbored jealousy towards Abel: everything Abel did was better than what Cain did, so Cain committed the sin of murdering his brother. The Lord gave Cain his punishment, and Cain “left the Lord’s presence” (Gen. 4:16), which brings to mind the third step above, where Jesus says one would treat the unrepentant sinner like a “Gentile or a tax collector.” This seems rather harsh, but unfortunately, if the conflict is so great that it can’t be resolved peacefully, perhaps the best thing to do is to let the person go and to pray for that person.
So are we called to be our brother’s keeper? In a perfect world, the Golden Rule would apply: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn. 13:34). To do that, one would have to show mercy towards one another. With love and mercy, conflict that would inevitably turn up would be resolved.
When conflicts arise, how do you resolve them? Do you listen to what each other has to say?
Gracious God, we are mindful of the conflicts we may have with our brothers and sisters. Help us to open our hearts and minds towards each other, and to show love and mercy such that whatever conflict comes our way will be resolved. Amen.
Copyright 2017 Lyn Francisco
Lyn Francisco is an organic chemist by training and education. When she is not at the lab bench, she occupies an organ bench in churches around Durham, NC. She also serves as cantor at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham.
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