by Father Caleb Buchanan
WE LIVE IN a society that is quick to treat conflict, moral failure and the need for conversion in the harshest and most destructive ways. Unfortunately in our everyday lives, local communities and even houses of worship, we fail to give people the benefit of the doubt in times of disagreement. In all things, we are our best when we approach our calling to address conflict, moral failure and the need for conversion in a spirit of respect and love.
The readings for this Sunday’s liturgy call us to this consistent ethic of respect and love in dealing with these matters as a faith community.
In Psalm 95, we are moved by a rich song of praise to begin all that we say and do in a spirit of prayerful humility. Prayerful humility allows us to praise God while remembering that we ourselves have failed in the past. We have walked away from His presence. We all are in need of ongoing conversion and repentance for our sins. We should never get involved in the business of reflecting on other persons’ actions, failures and need for conversion until we remember our own need to change.
Call to Conversion
This sense of prayerful humility and compassion grounds the trust God employs to challenge us to call sinners to conversion on His behalf.
In the first reading from Ezekiel, the prophet clearly hears God’s command to call sinners back to right relationship with the Lord. The responsibility is given to Ezekiel without reservation. Ezekiel is challenged by the Lord to do everything in his power to bring his brothers and sisters to return to God. This charge demands so much of the prophet’s respect and fidelity, that the Lord is willing to hold Ezekiel responsible for their sins if he fails to pursue this mission.
As Christians, we are called to be aware of the moral and spiritual struggles of our brothers and sisters around us. We are called to reach out to them in a spirit of humility and concern, gently but effectively calling them to reflect on the absolute call of the Lord in their lives to return to Him as they repent for their sins. But we must always do this prayerfully, lovingly and compassionately for we know the law of the Lord is perfect and its call upon our lives to obey the Lord and live in His ways is fulfilled in love.
St. Paul reminds us of this in the Letter to the Romans. He reminds us that we must always love one another as Christians. This love in our personal lives, our family lives, and in our Church lives must be exercised the most when we have to point out each other’s struggles with sin and the need for conversion. This love must be at the forefront of our approach in resolving conflicts and disputes in our parishes, our diocese, and the Church universal.
Do the Truth in Love
In this week’s Gospel of St. Matthew, Our Lord demands this expression of love in the form of respect and honor of the human dignity of the sinner. This respect and honor must be demonstrated by His disciples as they are called to confront sin, admonish the sinner and face conflict. We are not called to add insult to injury in times of dispute. We are not called to burden people with guilt and shame. Instead, we are called to admonish each other respectfully and lovingly so that the church is built up in a spirit of conversion. We are called to “do the truth in love.”
Seek Wise and Holy Counsel
As we prepare to begin a new school, labor and pastoral year, let’s make a pledge that we will pray before the Lord’s throne of grace for His wisdom and compassion before we reflect upon and recommend any actions to our loved ones and fellow believers.
May the grace of Jesus in the Eucharist we share move us to keep in mind the dignity each of us deserves when we approach one another. We should always seek wise and holy counsel before we approach each other in very difficult moments of conflict and disagreement. The world around us is already filled with a bitterness and a pervasive discord that is utterly toxic.
May the compassion of the Lamb transform us to eliminate these evils from His Mystical Body in what the late Blessed Pope John Paul II called these “difficult times.” [hr] Readings for the 23th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Romans 13: 8-10
Matthew 18: 15-20
Father Caleb Buchanan is the parochial vicar of St. Martin de Porres, Bedford-Stuyvesant; coordinator of the Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns, the diocesan West Indian and African-American Apostolates; and the chaplain of Medgar Evers College.