Homily – September 10, 2017

One of the greatest fears in many people’s minds these days is the situation between the US and North Korea. The posturing and the rhetoric of the two unstable leaders of these countries do nothing to ease the tension between these two nuclear powers. Both leaders don’t seem to be interested in any efforts at conflict resolution. It’s all very scary.

Most newspapers have a columnist who advises people who are in conflict with a family member or relative. The Dear Abby type. Misunderstandings seem to be part and parcel of family life and in our relationships with other people.

St. Paul was very concerned about maintaining the bond of unity in the church. He spent so much time trying to keep the peace and deepen the unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

Today’s short gospel is a great lesson on what is known today as conflict resolution.

Hurt feelings and misunderstandings can happen without our being aware of them. Friends may feel slighted or ignored. They can feel offended by something we said or did. Matthew teaches that if someone thinks another person has shown him/her disrespect, the offended person is advised to confront the other in private to talk things over, to get things straight. If there has been an honest misunderstanding then things are settled on the spot. It is over and done with. If the slight or offence is more serious the person might invite a third party in to try to sort things out, get an independent opinion. The hope in all this is that the independent person or witnesses will succeed where individual efforts failed and things will be made right.

If all these fail be bring about a reconciliation, in Matthew’s gospel the next step suggested is to bring the matter to the whole community. If the offended person will not accept the community’s judgement and persists in causing trouble, then he/she is asked to leave the community because they are disrupting the peace and order of the whole community.

The lesson is that we are to do everything, go to any lengths to resolve a conflict, keep the peace. It’s not all that easy. There was a book published years ago title, ‘Caring Enough to Confront.’ Can we care enough about another person, can we care enough about good people who are ‘put down’, belittled by racial jokes and remarks, to confront those who belittle other people’s dignity and speak up for men and women less fortunate than ourselves.

In our own family relationships do we care enough to confront misunderstandings or family feuds? Some families will go years before addressing a problem. 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 everyone but the accused.

Willingness to communicate and forgive enhances a common life of faith and family. We know too that jealousy and envy rip families and communities apart.

Matthew teaches that the Christian community will to any lengths, walk the last mile to maintain community peace and unity. In our family life, our parish life, our community life are we willing to care enough to confront resentments, racism and bigotry in any form and work to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace and love and mutual respect? May we never let the sun go down upon our rifts and misunderstandings.

We pray too that the leaders of North Korea and the U.S will care enough to confront the possibilities of reconciliation and peace.