from Fr. Jim

Jesus gives directions to his disciples today on how to act “if your brother sins against you.” Jesus’ answer is not the normal course of action that I follow. When my brother sins against me, I often think, well, my brother’s wrong, so… I’m just going to write him off. Have a nice life, punk! Or (if it’s a good day and I’m feeling generous) I’ll think, my brother sinned against me… but let’s pretend it didn’t happen and I’ll just get over it, it’s not that big of a deal. But Jesus doesn’t advocate either of these attitudes; because neither attitude is a good response to someone I call “my brother.” So Jesus says, “if your brother sins against you… go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”

Jesus wants us to be realistic and honest with ourselves. It doesn’t help anyone to pretend that when someone sins against you, it doesn’t hurt. But at the same time, he doesn’t want us to forget that this brother or sister who sins against us is a fragile human being, who has faults and limitations, but who is still loved by God and who remains my brother or sister. Jesus doesn’t want us to pretend that sin is ok, but he also insists that we are compassionate, thoughtful, and discrete about how we approach that person about it.

In his audience a week and a half ago, Pope Francis spoke about how the Church is holy, but made up of sinners. This has a lot to do with Jesus’ advice today: what should I do when one of my fellow sinner sins against me? Francis points out how easy it is to become the center of our own attention, and then to begin to judge others in our community, and to start to focus on the faults of others instead of the gifts they bring to the table. We forget that we are all limited and fragile humans. And what we then do is the opposite of what Jesus tells us today—instead of approaching my brother directly, we gossip about him. “There is so much gossip in parishes,” Francis said, “it is not good!” And ironically, when this happens, “our parishes, called to be places of sharing and communion, are sadly marred by envy, jealousy, antipathy.” And too often the root of this division is our unwillingness to follow Jesus’ counsel today: “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” When we give in to telling his fault to everyone else, it only creates division.

Francis calls us to make an examination of conscious on this point. “Division in a Christian community, whether in a school, a parish, or an association, it is a very grave sin, because it is the work of the Devil. God, instead, wants us to develop the capacity to welcome, to forgive and to love each other, to be ever more like Him, who is communion and love.” This is tough work, and it takes time, but if we ask for it, the Lord will give us “the grace not to speak ill, not to criticize, not to gossip, to love everyone.”

Blessings on your week,
Fr. Jim