23rd Sunday

Ezek 33:7-9; Rom 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20

Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclist- of the Hell’s Angels type- decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his French fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it.

How do you think he responded? He calmly rose, picked up the check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night. When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, “Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?” She replied, “I don’t know about that, but he sure isn’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot.”

Many of us may understand how this truck driver feels. It is hard to be nice to some people. The gospel teaches us that I have a obligation to every person, not just to the people who are nice. Let us see what the scripture readings tell us today.

St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another…Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” He is perfectly right, because the Kingdom of God is ruled by love and a Christian community that does not glow with love is unsatisfactory. But what is love? Paul himself tells us, “Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous…” I Cor 13:4. Today let us take a few minutes to reflect love is concern.

Love as concern shows itself in the interest we take for the welfare of others and in the help we offer to be better Christians. Such a loving concern will sometimes also take the form of warning someone who is doing evil. Suppose a mother caught her five-year old daughter with a stolen chocolate bar just after they returned from the supermarket. One natural reaction of the mother would be to do nothing or to pretend the problem is not there. An alternative reaction may be to shun and reject the daughter out of hand, even to hate her. But both reactions would not be Christian. A loving Christian reaction would be that the mother warns the child about the evils of stealing and have the child return the candy to the supermarket manager and apologise. “If you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death” (Ezek 33:8) said the Lord to the prophet. This is a harsh warning to those who neglect their Christian responsibility to help another to move away from evil ways.

 

Love as concern is not having nice feelings for one another. It will mean at times the moral obligation of correcting one who has fallen into a serious misconduct. In today’s gospel Jesus tells, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” One of the most difficult things in life is to confront a person directly who has done something wrong. A few wrongdoers will immediately admit their guilt. However, a confrontation to reconsider what he or she has done will sufficiently influence the person towards better conduct.

Love as concern has another beauty. It will draw people together to pray. If personal prayer is the breath of faith, community prayer is the lungs of the church. After ending the matter of correcting one another, Jesus makes immediately a promise: “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” This means that if the offender and the offened join together in a community prayer and pray for peace, there is a great possibility of ending the quarrel.

Our world is littered with broken relationships. We have them in our families between husbands and wives, parents and children. We face them between employers and employees, with neighbors, different ethnic and social groups, between nations. What is the solution? Is there a way to repair the breach, to rebuild the bridge, to restore the relationship? I believe God gives us a vital key to restore relationships. And that key is love. In essence, it is living out the Great Commandment to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. It means focusing on God and other people, not self. Let us pray for unity and peace

 

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