XXIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
ezekiel 33:7-9; romans 13:8-10; matthew 18:15-20
in «the great divorce,» c. s. lewis writes that hell is like a vast city inhabited only at the periphery; it has rows and rows of empty houses in the middle… empty because the inhabitants quarrelled with their neighbours and moved. then, they quarrelled with their new neighbours and moved again. this process of quarrel-move-quarrel slowly left the old neighbourhoods empty. hell has gotten so large because everyone chose distance instead of honest confrontation.
lewis’ picture is as true as it’s stark! when someone hurts us, it’s either fight or—more often than not—flight! «let it be» is the preferred course of action… with one problem: we do not «let it be»!
in today’s gospel, jesus sets guidelines for conflict resolution. he challenges us to seek reconciliation by talking to the person instead of about the person!
the first step is dialogue: «if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault…» dialogue is not a finger-pointing venture; it is an honest and specific sharing of and listening to perspectives/feelings.
if/when dialogue fails, if the other refuses to see his/her fault or rebuffs attempts at reconciliation, resort to step two—diplomacy: if your brother «does not listen, take one or two others along with you…»
if/when diplomacy also fails, move to step three: «let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.» since the gentile and tax collector were considered outcasts, is step three dissociation? that would be great, but jesus loved the gentile and the tax collector, and never ceased to associate with them.
so step three is deep love… that wills the good of the other (this is not affection!). this is what paul tells the romans in the first reading: «owe no one anything except to love one another… love does no wrong to a neighbour.»
we can’t always make peace with those who hurt us, but we can and must still love them… unless we want to live in hell.
will i resolve hurts through dialogue, diplomacy and deep love… and be reconciled with the people who have hurt me? will i construct walls or build bridges?