The message of the first reading reminds me of one of the spiritual works of mercy: to admonish the sinner. Does anyone know these works of mercy anymore? Do people think that they are a “To Do” list from the past – a different time and place? It seems as though the world looks down upon those who admonish the sinner as being intolerant and judgmental. Of course, making a person aware of his/her moral misstep must be done with kindness and charity, but it should be done nonetheless. In today’s reading, we are told that if we do not do so, we too will be held responsible for the death of that person’s soul. Yikes! People think that they are being charitable by smiling and looking the other way, however, in some instances, a person’s eternity may be at stake. Wouldn’t it be more charitable to give them the opportunity to make amends – to repent? Maybe he/she won’t take the knowledge well, but at least you’ve tried AND you have planted a seed – a thought in his/head that may grow with time and prayer. We do this with our teenage and young adult children.
The psalm made me think of two things – the NEED for silence so lacking in our lives today. How can we ever hear God’s voice – His whisper – in our hearts – if we can’t be still – if we cannot tolerate solitude or inactivity? Are we afraid of what He would say? Are we avoiding? Secondly, the tone of the psalm is Happy, Happy, Happy. It speaks of “singing joyfully” to the Lord. I was told by one of my children last Sunday that I sing and respond too loudly in church – that it doesn’t “count more if I’m louder.” That annoyed me. I know that my voice carries. I’m not trying to drown out others or “be heard.” I just truly enjoy singing at mass. I think that the responses are there for us to actually say because we are a part of the sacrifice that the priest is offering on our behalf. Hardly anyone sings at mass anymore. It makes me very sad.
I find the gospel very interesting. We are given a prescription for handling conflict. We are told to go through the proper channels. Then, if none of the steps resolve the conflict – “straightens out the one who harmed you” – then “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” Wow! These folks were not well-respected – in fact, in many cases they were loathed. Is Jesus telling us to hate? I don’t think so. Matthew, the fellow who wrote this gospel – the one who is telling the story was himself a tax collector. How did Jesus treat the Gentiles and tax collectors? He healed them. He dined with them. He forgave them.
The gospel concludes with something that families would do well to remember:
If people can agree about “anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”
These are powerful words of encouragement for family prayer. Family prayer is unitive and transformative. We would all be prudent to work toward increasing the use of this wonderful spiritual tool in our own homes.