The gospel deals with a life situation which is totally foreign to today’s reality. The church, the Christian community, was a very small, closely knit group of people. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. If a member of the church was living or acting in such a way as to bring dishonor to the reputation of the community is was the duty or one or many of the community to confront that person with whatever he or she was doing wrong. The person was given many chances to face his or her wrongful behavior, given many chances to get his or her life in order. If a person persisted in that attitude that no one was going to tell what to do, that a person or the whole group should mind its own business, then the community would decide it was best for all concerned that that such a person no longer belonged to the group.
We live our lives in relationships and relationships can get pretty rocky at times. Things we say or do can be hurtful to others, even without our realizing it. We can be or abrupt – curt in the way we speak to others and we may not appreciate the way we say or do things are hurtful or offensive. Or we may live with people who act this way. We just don’t appreciate the way we or they come across to others.
Some families will go years before addressing problems such as verbal, psychological or physical abuse or the abuse of alchol and drugs. Grudges or resentments within a family more often die with those who hold them rather than come to resolution in quiet conversation. Misdeeds of friends or relatives are usually discussed with anyone but the accused.
At work we may be victims of power plays or office politics. We may be aware of a collogue being exploited by someone in authority and we stay silent.
None of us is perfect but we are our brother’ and sister’s keeper and out of love for that person we know to be doing wrong or doing something that is harmful to themselves and those close to them then, in all charity we must say something to help that person stop and think about themselves and the effect they are having on those around them.
It was probably out of today’s gospel that a practice developed in religious communities called fraternal correction. This applied especially to the superior of the community. If he or she saw a member of the community acting or speaking in a way that damaged community life, he or she was to confront that person. The superior was cautioned to wait at least three days before doing so just in case he or she was acting out their own quirks or frustration. The purpose of the correction was to restore and strengthen the peace and unity of the community.
There was a book out a number of years ago titled, Caring Enough to Confront. The title speaks for itself, especially the word ‘caring’. We care enough about a family member or friend that we take the risk of confronting them about the way they are behaving or treating a family member or friend. We are not out to scold , judge of condemn. We just want this family member or friend to stop and think of what they are doing and how it is affecting those around him or her.
We are our brothers and sisters keeper and out of love we speak. It may not work but we tried. St. Paul invites us to do all we can to strengthen the bonds of peace. That can apply to our life within the community of the parish, within the family or our place of work.
If ever we find ourselves in situations of stress and conflict may each of us care enough to say something, do something to hopefully bring about a change, a change that will bring about great peace and harmony to those for whom we care.