This past Tuesday Bp. Nelsen was installed as the bishop of our diocese. He said several encouraging things in his homily and at other points during the installation, my favorite being that the only plan he has at the start of things is to become a part of us. That’s a good shepherd, a bishop who knows he has to be part of the people and not above and separate from them. He also has a great sense of humor. Some of his classmates from college seminary were there and he asked them to stand up for a moment. He said to all the rest of us, “You are not allowed to talk to these guys; they know too much.” It got quite the laugh, because everyone there thought back to their own college days and the stupid and embarrassing stories that certain people would know.
There is a lighthearted and joyful bond when people share that long history. And all joking aside, that bond becomes the strongest when it is not just someone who knows your laughable moments, but someone who knows your lowest moments. The friend who sheltered you when you were broken and slapped you across the face when you lost sight of things… and is still faithfully by your side… that friend is a treasure in your life.
Today’s scripture inspires us to be such devoted friends. And it begins with being mindful of who we are supposed to be. Do we have a responsibility to correct someone who does something wrong? Yes… but we must correct them as a brother, we must correct them in the right way.
The answer is “yes”, because as the first reading tells us, sometime God relies upon us to be his voice calling someone to turn from their wrongdoing. If it is the case that we have that prophetic role to set someone on a better path and we don’t say anything, then we share in the guilt and the responsibility of wherever they end up. Often we do not have that role, but for those whose lives are bound together, parent to child, one friend to another, teacher to student… in those roles we must be those prophetic guides when necessary. How could you not save someone who trusts you and who you love from the mistakes that you have made and regret?
And as we correct someone we do it in love, following this practical gospel. The gospel says that “if a brother sins against you”. A brother! If you are angry with someone and upset at what they have done, then in your heart that brotherly love has been overwhelmed. Wait until you can truly call them “brother” or “sister”, wait until the anger is replaced with a love that connects your heart to theirs, then go and correct them. And begin first by doing it privately, one person speaking to one person. The Gospel says, “tell him his fault” – this doesn’t mean come in guns blazing, condemning them for whatever it is. “Tell” means “show”, open their eyes, help them to see what has went wrong, say, “consider what you have done and look what has happened and where it will lead. This is not good for you, this is not what you want.” Then, if they don’t listen to you, then you gather one or two others who love that person as well, and they can appeal with you. Finally, when there is no option left, you start to push them away to show them that there are consequences for their action.
Christ says that if you protect those you love in this way and they turn back from what they are doing, then you have “won over your brother”. It’s not a win as having conquered, it is a win as having gained a treasure.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.