painting of Lois Fisher, available in New York
Mt18: 15-20, Gospel for Sunday, 9/4/2011
Jesus taught his disciples how to correct their brother in Christ when he had sinned against them. He instructed, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. an example could be, a brother stealing, gossiping, taking some kind of advantage. That would constitute a sin "against you." Other steps may have to be taken if he does not listen, up to the point of shunning the brother "as you would a Gentile or tax collector." (see my edit, below). These instructions were given to help the disciples practice the love and respect of one another that Jesus had taught, instead of seeking retribution for wrongs committed.
In our modern world, we still would do well to follow this advice with patient correction. I think that, overall, we are living in a very favorable time, in which the justice system of the secular world really can handle most disagreements that would fall under the category of sinning against each other.
What is assumed, and forms a very powerful underpinning, is the concept of forgiveness. The rebuke that Jesus taught is a part of Christian forgiveness because we are all students. We need to learn how to love each other and need the party that was wronged to confront the sinner with discipline and love.
Next comes forgiveness, in which the sinner is brought back into the fold after they have repented. Jesus showed us how to forgive and suffered, died and rose for our sins. I feel fortunate to have been brought up in a Catholic home where the lessons of the Gospel were incorporated into my daily life. I appreciate today's Gospel which reminds me of the love that can be expressed for my brethren in the context of sin and conflict. When things are going well, we might lose track of the potential for us to disagree, and to hurt each other. May God bless me with wisdom to serve my fellow men better. Amen.
edit: At Mass today Father Joe made an outstanding conclusion during his homily: Jesus did not actually shun the tax collectors and Gentiles. He ate with them, spent time with them. Taught them. Father Joe suggested that Jesus meant to imply: "Treat them specially. They are hurting." That is one of the most charitable and Christ-like scripture interpretations that I'd heard. Thanks Father Joe!