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Don’t give up...

From Safari…..

Recently, we have witnessed the power of nature. It is hard for me to imagine losing everything in a fire or in a storm, as many people did in Maui and Florida. It is difficult to see the suffering and the deaths. At times like this, we are prone to ask why. However, the questions better asked are: what do I do now that this has happened, and what do

I know? What do we do now? Hold these people in prayer, offer our financial assistance and some of us may be in position to volunteer. What do I know? I know God is with us and will give us the strength to help rebuild lives. I know that God does not send disasters as a warning or punishment.

The aftermath of disasters often show how interconnected we are. We hurt because we see our brothers and sisters are hurting. I am reminded of the South African term ubuntu. Ubuntu means: I am because we are. As humans, we are meant to live in community.

Jesus calls us into a loving community. The Kingdom of God is not about individualism but rather using our gifts to compliment one another and build a community of believers. Christian faith is meant to be lived in community. We need each other to experience Jesus. We need each other to share burdens and joys. We need each other to stay true to the faith. We need each other to avoid becoming consumed by our secular society.

When all is well, community is great. However, we know it is difficult to live in community. We each have our ideas and opinions. The difficulty of community is clearly seen in family, as a husband and wife differ, where siblings fight with each other. Today’s section from the gospel of Matthew indicates that either Jesus anticipated a non-perfect church or the church from the very beginning was not perfect. Or as one biblical scholar points out --- Matthew has no romantic illusions about the church. He knows that the church is not all sweet thoughts, endlessly patient saints, and cloudless skies. In Matthew’s church, people – no matter how committed – are still people, and stormy weather is always a possible forecast. Jesus in today’s gospel passage provides us a process for dealing with difficulties in community life. The passage falls between the searching for the lost sheep and what we will hear

next week, the call to forgive without limit. The message is we need to connect and not discard. So, we are told to go directly to the person who offended us.

All too often we turn to everyone but the one who hurt us. We proclaim to anyone who will listen what a jerk this other person is, can you believe what he or she did? Jesus challenges us to meet with the one we are at odds with. We need to be so concerned about the difference that we would do anything necessary to restore the friendship. The hope is that this dialogue will bring the other to listen. The Greek word translated listen means more than hearing, it involves understanding, an understanding which brings about a change.

What if the person doesn’t change? Then invite one or two others to join the discussion. These others bring objectivity. Sometimes, two people in disagreement are so busy arguing that they fail to see they agree. Or it may well be that the accuser is off base. If they still don’t listen, then bring them to the community. For Jesus going to court offers no solution, in fact it may only make matters worse. In the community the matter is brought to prayer. The faith community judges with divine love.

The next step seems like there is a point where we can wash our hands of the situation. Jesus says if they will not listen to the church, treat them as a tax collector or gentile. This is not about casting someone out. The gospel is filled with stories of Jesus reaching out to the gentile, tax collector, the outsider. The message from Jesus is don’t give up. Paul puts all of this more simply. Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another….Love does no evil to the neighbor.

Peace, Fr. Ron

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