Fr. Dale’s Homily

23rd Sunday in OT (Cycle A)

Gospel:  Matthew 18: 15-20

September 9-10, 2023

This being Grandparents’ Weekend, I often wonder how a grandma or grandpa chooses to correct their own grandchild when it is warranted.  It is not easy work.  There is a public face of bad behavior and the response to it.  I personally see and hear it at public places like Kroger or Walmart or McDonald’s or chick-filet or Cracker Barrel or fill in the blank.  Then there is the private face of correction that happens at home, or in the car or in the principal’s office at school.  While I admit I have less patience as I grow older, I also find it harder to watch or listen to what I see as unfair; both on the part of the child and also the adult.  I know tough love is very hard to enact.  It is a two-way street whereas any person, small or large, old or young, called on God for fairness and to do “the next right thing”.  But, what isthe next right thing’?

Today’s readings are all about “correcting” … but correcting WHO?  The readings seem to be saying that we have this responsibility to one another, to help each other stay on the right path. 

So, how do we feel about that?

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”

Now, as you may know, I am from a semi-small immediate family, but from a very large one of many first cousins.  The year 1955 produced the most of these cousins in any given year.  I am close to most of these 46 cousins… I “like” most of them… especially Archbishop Chuckie in Indianapolis… most of the time…

Being family, we did not always get along.  I think it would be safe to say that we “sinned against each otherplenty.  And we were also very good at “fraternal correction”, which usually took one of three forms.  One form we used to correct each other involved hitting one another.  Not too effective… but it felt good.  The second form was good ole name calling – such as you idiot, you jerk… We were pretty good at not using profane words, but beyond that; we were quite creative.  The last form of correction was the most effective, and the one we used the most: tattling.  We told on each other a lot, with lots and lots of extra embellished details…

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”

Now, I think all of us can understand when a child resorts to this type of solution.  But what is our excuse as adults?  What? We don’t tattle?  Sure we do.  We just give it another nameGOSSIP.  When we gossip, we’re not necessarily telling anyone who has the power to do anything about it, we’re tattling nonetheless… out comes those words and we want them right back … most of the time, it’s too late

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his

fault between you and him alone.”

You know, quite honestly, that it’s not easy to know how to correct another person.  It just isn’t.  It is not easy to know how we’re supposed to go about it, what we are supposed to say and how we are to say it.  But God seems to be making it fairly clear that it is one of our responsibilities to each other.  In the first reading from Ezekiel, we heard that… if we see someone going astray, and we don’t do anything to help him or her get back on the right path, we bear some of the responsibility.  Pretty strong words?

This gets especially complicated when we get to the level of the world stage… but that is another day and another time…  

But why is this also so hard to do at the level of our families, our workplaces, our schools, and our church?  The Lord tells us to go to the person who wronged us and try to settle the issue… to bring reconciliation.  And what do we often do?  We tell every single person except the person we should tell.  And the people we do tell, tell others and they then tell others, and right down the line… Usually the last person to find out is the one who should have known in the first place. 

Gossip is poisonIt just is.  It poisons families, schools, neighborhoods, and even faith communities.  And gossip is not necessarily the telling of falsehoods… it sometimes involves telling the truth to persons who have no business knowing the information in the first place… 

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”

In the end, there is one test for gauging how OR if we should correct someone, how we are to help someone stay on the right path.  That test is brought to light by the words of Paul: “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”  And there you have it…

Love, love, love.  If our actions aren’t done out of love then we shouldn’t do them at all.  If the words we say are not said out of love, we shouldn’t say them at all.  Every time we’re about to open our mouths, we need to ask, “Am I doing this out of love, or for some other reason?”

We have heard the expression, “You only hurt the ones you love.”  Well, Jesus wants us to turn the phrase inside out… start loving the ones who hurt us…. it is the hardest work you will ever do.