Go and point out the fault.
As if particularly
sensitive to the demands of Christian community life, the readings
from the Lectionary’s Cycle A this month provide contrasting
sets of virtues and vices that foster and destroy relationships.
Willingness to communicate and forgive enhances a common life
of faith. Jealousy and envy, as we will see in subsequent weeks,
rip communities apart.
Community life, whether in a family, intentional groupings, religious congregations,
or the church itself, is the great testing ground of faith. St. Teresa of Avila
thought that relationships in community were often a greater indication of one’s
relationship to God than the heights of mystical prayer.
An activist like Dorothy Day was wise enough to see that injustice and exploitation
were as present in small service communities as in political empires.
And Jean Vanier, as committed to marginal people as anyone might be, has often
observed that it takes greater charity and humility to get along with a co-laborer
than with a handicapped stranger.
Paul reminds his Roman audience that love, tested in immediate relationship with
our neighbor, is the fulfillment of all laws. Even dramatic sins of adultery,
murder, and stealing are variations of the more domestic betrayals of deception,
manipulation, and egotism.
In each case it is a lack of love, a harming of the neighbor, that occurs. This
is why our one duty, our sole “debt,” is to love one another.
Today’s Gospel provides
a practical scenario on community relations:
“If your brother should commit some wrong against you, go and
point out his fault, but keep it between the two of you. ... If he does not listen, summon another, so that every case
may stand on the word of two or three witnesses.”
after these careful encounters is the conflict to be referred
to the entire church. Then, if recalcitrance persists, there
Sounds simple enough.
The problem is, it depends upon behaviors that do not come easily. We don’t often
enjoy directly confronting another person, especially someone with whom we are
Some families will go years before addressing a problem. Grudges or resentments
within a community more often die with those who hold them rather than come to
resolution in quiet conversation. Misdeeds of friends or relatives are usually
discussed with anyone but the accused.
Encountering the truth with another person daunts us because it makes us face
another being who cannot be reduced to our own desires or projections. We may
try to make others a function of our egos, but it fails. Rather than enter the
struggle, we ignore it.
If, however, we seriously love another person as an “other,” and not
a mere instrument of our wills, we experience the kind of self-transcendence
that is required in our relationship to God.
Is it any wonder, then, that what we bind and loose on earth is somehow bound
and loosed eternally? Our human relationships mirror our relationship with God.
Whenever we encounter each other—not only in prayer—Jesus is in our
Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at
Louis University in St. Louis.
His untimely death is a grief for the many people he reached during his lifetime.
1998 by John F. Kavanaugh. All rights
Used by permission from Orbis Books,
Maryknoll, New York 10545-0308
THE WORD EMBODIED:
Meditations on the Sunday Scriptures
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York (1998), pp. 100-101.
To purchase or learn more about other books
written by Fr. Kavanaugh,
go to http://www.maryknollmall.org/
type "Kavanaugh" next to the "SEARCH"
Art by Martin Erspamer, O.S.B.
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical
(A, B, and C).
Used by permission of Liturgy Training
Publications. This art may be reproduced only
by parishes who purchase the collection in book
or CD-ROM form. For more information go to: