Sunday Gospel reflecion – Am I my brother’s keeper

Am I my brother’s keeper?

According to the deep wisdom of the early pages of the bible, the first sin of the human race was the attempt of Adam and Eve to usurp the moral authority of God regarding the knowledge of good and evil.  The second sin was when Cain killed his brother and disowned his responsibility saying “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Saint Paul, in today’s Second Reading tells us: “Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love.”

As members of the community of Christ, other people are our brothers or sisters in Christ. The Readings at Mass today are about the delicate matter of caring for someone who is going astray.   Jesus suggests three possible approaches.

The first way is to meet, one to one, with the erring brother or sister.  It takes great wisdom to know whether to confront or to encourage.  An argumentative confrontation will rarely help.  Nobody really wins a loud argument.  Even getting in the last word is not a sign of victory.   Each side ends up more convinced than ever. 

A gentle confrontation, especially offering encouragement, is closer to Christian love and more likely to succeed.  When Saint Pope John XXIII was Bishop of Venice, he went to visit a priest about whom scandalous rumours were rampant.  After a little small talk, he knelt before the priest and humbly asked him to hear his confession.  What is called a belt of the crozier might have terminated the man’s vocation.  A gentle reminder of one’s dignity and ideals will often work wonders.  St. Paul says in today’s Second Reading, “Love is the only thing that cannot hurt your neighbour.”

Sometimes a one-to-one meeting will not be adequate so the second step in the advice of Jesus is to take one or two others along with you.  It can be easy to sidestep the evidence of one person, but a small group of caring people who remain calm as they recall hard evidence will be more persuasive.

If the second step fails, the advice of Jesus is to hand over the problem to the community of believers, namely the Church.  The only other place in any Gospel where the Church is mentioned is when Jesus gives Peter his name as the rock of the Church.  What is the meaning of handing the problem over to the Church?  Does it mean contacting the bishop?

No, but what is meant here is a community of believers who will pray for the person who is morally sick.  There is a very powerful presence of God in a group united in prayer.  The promise of Jesus is that “where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.”

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