Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20
Correct One Another in Love
1. The readings today stress the need to correct one another in love. Our world is so polarized that we are prone to build a wall of separation rather build a bridge of love and unity. Fr. John Pichapilly published a powerful story in his book, ‘Kindle Your Spirit’ that, I believe, will capture the substance of these readings.
2. “Once upon a time, there were two brothers. Their father had a large farm and when he became too old to work, he called his sons to him and said, “I am too old to work anymore. I will divide my farm in half and give each of you one half. I know that you will always work together and will be good friends.” When the brothers first started farming on their adjoining farms, they were the best of friends and would share everything together. Then, one day there was an argument between the two brothers, and they stopped speaking to one another. For many years, not a word was spoken between them.
3. One day, one of the brothers was at his house when a carpenter came to his door and said, “I would like to do some work. Do you have any work that I can do?” The brother thought for a moment and then replied, “I would like for you to build a fence on my property. Build it down near the stream there that separates my farm from my brother’s. I don’t want to see my brother anymore and I would like for you to build a high fence there please. I’m going into town and I’ll be back this evening.
4. When he came back that evening, he was shocked to see that the carpenter had not followed his instructions. Instead of building a high fence there, he had built a bridge over the stream. The man walked down to take a look at the bridge, and as he did, his brother walked towards him from the other side. His brother said, “After all the terrible things I’ve done to you over the years, I cannot believe that you would build a bridge and welcome me back.” He reached out to his brother and gave him a high hug. The brother then walked back up to his farmhouse to talk to the carpenter. “Can you stay?” he asked. “I have more work for you to do.” The carpenter answered, “I’m sorry but I can’t stay. I have to go, for I have many other bridges to build.
5. Every now and then, we are confronted with conflicts in our families, in places of work, in our church and in our community. Our strength is not in falling, but in getting up each time we fall. When faced with conflicts we often build a fence between ourselves and see others as enemies. We would stop talking to our presumed enemies, avoid them and close in on ourselves. We cannot run away from people who hurt us but do what we can to achieve peace and correct each other in love. This is what Jesus Christ wants us to do. Instead of a wall, he wants us to build a bridge of love between us.
6. Jesus does not give up on anyone. He wants us to explore every means possible for reconciliation. He did not give up on Peter but prayed for his conversion. Neither did he give up on Judas as this story demonstrates. The saved were partying in heaven. Missing was Jesus. Peter found Him at Heaven’s gate and asked: “Master, why are you standing outside?” He replied, “Peter I’m waiting for Judas.” If Christ won’t give up on Judas, should we give up on people? We should extend our kindness even to those who hurt us. When we forgive people, we do not do them a favor, but we set ourselves free to love. Hence St. Paul tells us in the second reading to “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen was correct when he observed that “While it is possible to win the argument, your anger may lose the war.”
7. Let us pray at this Mass dear friends, that instead building fences of hatred, we may build bridges of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. May the Holy Spirit guide and direct us so that we may learn to correct each other in love. Let us take these words of Christ to heart and learn to live by them: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:3-5). God bless you!
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.