Cycle (A) 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

There is a story adapted from Tales from Rumi.

Four Men entered a mosque and each busied himself in salah, humbly prostrating before Allah. Each one said the "Allahu Akbar" after first having made his intention, and began to pray with humility. Meanwhile the Mu'adhdhin came in and gave the call to salah. 

The first man blurted out to the Mu'adhdhin, "Are you calling to the prayer? Is it the right time?" The second spoke on the spur of the moment, "You have wasted your salah by speaking during prayers." The third retorted, "Why did YOU speak? Tell yourself how to behave!" The fourth mumbled, "Praise be to Allah! I wasn't a party to
their arguments."

Thus all the four broke their solat and wasted it.

"To err is human." The Word of God that we have heard today describes the spiritual responsibility and accountability that each and everyone of us has towards our neighbours. The meaning of the word "neighbour" in biblical sense has a greater meaning than just "fellow Jews" or the neighbour next door. It speaks of our responsibility of correcting our brothers and sisters. It has always existed in the Biblical tradition and in the Church, from the early days of the Christian community right up to the present time.

Whenever the people of God disobeyed the command of God, and walked in unjust ways God sent his prophets to correct them. When David committed sin, Nathan spoke on behalf of God. Isaiah was a prophet and a court preacher in Jerusalem. He predicted a future disaster for the Southern Kingdom of Judah because of their many sins. Jeremiah was called the "weeping prophet" because of his dire predictions of the fate of Jerusalem, the Southern Kingdom of Judah and other nations due to the sinful behaviour by the people of Israel. God instructed Jeremiah to make a yoke from wood and leather straps and to put it on his own neck to demonstrate how God will put the nation under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. In a similar way, the prophet Isaiah had to walk stripped and barefoot for three years to illustrate the coming captivity, and the prophet Ezekiel had to lie on his side for 390 days and eat measured food to illustrate the coming siege.

The prophets considered themselves as occupying a divinely appointed societal office, correcting by divine word illegal beliefs and practices. The prophets were neither radical social reformers nor great religious thinkers. It was Yahweh's word that accomplished these tasks. The nature of his demands was contained already in the law. The prophets were ardent patriots, as the covenant demanded.  They denounced the guilty and demanded to amend their ways.

During today's Gospel reading, Jesus teaches us how to proceed as responsible and accountable spiritual brothers and sisters who are genuinely concerned for the spiritual well-being of others.  We are obligated to privately approach the sinner so we will not publicly humiliate him or her. Jesus never humiliated anyone in public, and He could never tolerate such attitudes. When the adulterous woman was presented before Jesus by the crowd. He rebuked the crowd and corrected the woman in private. Jesus wants us to follow his example.

Our tradition was that parents accepted the responsibility of correcting their children. Teachers took upon the responsibility of guiding their pupils in the right path. Preachers pointed the areas to be corrected. Elders knew what was wrong and what was right, and they denounced the wrong confidently. Friends corrected one another. But, today our attitude is to close our eyes against mistakes. We think "what anybody does is his own business. Why don't we leave them alone?" or "It is none of our business." But often we forget that we don't live in isolation. When we tolerate someone to drink and get behind the wheel, we cannot guarantee that the only thing that he will hit is a roadside tree or the road dividers. If we tolerate it we or our kids may be dead. So, it is our business to correct our dear ones, friends, and anyone who does mistakes.

When Jesus admonishes us to correct the mistakes of others in private, he wants us to be creative in correction. If we emphasize on the positive qualities rather than negatives, it is easy to achieve our objective. The husband who has one negative to be corrected has many positive qualities that can be highlighted. The wife who has one negative to be corrected has many admirable qualities to be appreciated. Children who always do some mistakes many commendable things in them to be discovered. So, if he adopt a constructive approach it is easy to correct others.

There was a hunter who bought an amazing bird dog. This one-of-a kind dog could walk on water. The hunter was looking forward to showing off his new acquisition to his friends. He invited a friend to go duck hunting. After some time, they shot a few ducks and the man ordered his dog to be fetched, the dog ran on water there were birds. The owner was expecting his friend to comment or compliment him about this amazing dog, but never got one. As they were returning home, he asked his friend if he had noticed anything unusual about his dog. The friend replied, "Yes, in fact, I did notice something unusual. Your dog can't swim." Some people always look at the negative side. Some people always criticize no matter what. It does not matter how well something done, they will always find fault with it. This should be changed. Instead of the negative, look for the positive qualities.

If the positive approach also does not work, Jesus tells to take a witness. A man often hates those whom he has injured most of all; and it may well be that nothing we can say can win him back. But to talk matters over with some wise and gracious people. It is to create a new atmosphere, and to help the process of reconciliation. The Rabbis had a wise saying, Judge not alone, for none may judge alone save One (that is God.)"

Having admonished the disciples to be reconciled, Jesus continues to speak to them about the power of prayer. Prayer will be more effective in a community that is united.  Jesus promised, "Where two or three are assembled together in my name there am I in the midst of them." Hence, when we come together for family prayer - father, mother and children, - Jesus will be there as an unseen guest.  When we come together for prayer meetings, Bible studies, and for the mass, Jesus will be there as an unseen guest.

As Jesus demands, let us work together to have a reconciled family and a reconciled community that Jesus will be present always with our families, and community.