September 7, 2014 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
It is inevitable that conflicts will arise among those who live and work together. Living in harmony with the people closest to us can be difficult.
Married couples, parents and children, employers and employees face difficulties. Tensions arise. Relationships are broken by cruel acts, betrayal, harsh words, bitter sarcasm or sulking silence.
Our scripture readings this weekend call us, no, challenge us, to work to heal those broken relationships.
In the gospel, Jesus actually gives us a plan of attack.
He says we should always begin with a one on one. We should sit down and calmly try to talk through the difficulties. This is challenging even for those of us who are good communicators.
If this works, the relationship is healed and restored. But we must be careful, because Jesus says winning your brother or sister over does not mean gloating or having to be right all the time.
Winning your brother or sister over means coming together to heal the rift, to settle the difference, to bring about peace.
If this doesn’t work then a few witnesses or a counselor or someone good at reconciliation should be brought in to try to mediate.
Going to see a counselor or a spiritual director is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a sign of failure.
It is a sign that both parties in the conflict are willing to get help. It is a recognition that the relationship is valued enough that an effort will be made to save it.
A counselor or spiritual director can help keep both sides from being unreasonable and digging their heels in when it isn’t necessary. Again, if this works, the relationship is healed and restored.
If it doesn’t, then the larger community may be brought in to bring together the warring factions. This tends to take the form of mediation or some other more formal procedure.
Our Holy Father often tries to broker peace between enemies.
In Jesus’ teachings there is a call for reconciliation, a call for peace, a call for living together in harmony.
Saint Paul affirms this in the second reading when he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor.”
This can be a tall order for us because we live in a sue-happy society. If we can’t get our way, we seek legal remedy. We dig in our heels, insist that we are right, yell and scream or pout and sulk until we get our way.
Jesus says, “When two or three come together in my name, I am there.” Jesus’ desire is for those who are in broken relationships to come together again, to reach an agreement, to come to a place of peace.
And Jesus promises to be with us when we come together. He is breaking down the barriers between us and encouraging the restoration of friendship.
Relationships can be difficult, and it is inevitable that conflicts will arise among us.
But Jesus’ desire is that we come together to settle those differences so that we can live together as God’s children in peace and harmony and love.