Go to your brother first!

Posted by James Hahn on

Tuesday August 16th – Saint Stephen of Hungry
Matthew 18:15-20
Someone once said, “it’s not the parts of scripture that I don’t understand that give me trouble but the parts that I do understand.” Today’s Gospel is exactly one of those parts. I understand fully that Christ wants me to take my grievances to my brother but this almost never happens.
What usually happens when my brother sins against me, is that I go to others. However, I don’t go seeking their help but to talk about what has been done to me. I seek out open ears willing to listen to my complaining. It’s easier for me to complain to others than it is for me to confront the persons who have wronged me.
Jesus tells us that as a last resort we should turn to the authorities of the Church for help in reconciling our differences. Unfortunately this tends to be the first place we turn to and it is the reason for much of the bureaucracy in the Church today. Instead of confronting Fr. Makeitup about his liturgical language we smile, shake his hand after Mass and hurry home to write the bishop or call the Chancery office. After we write our letter or make our call we email and call all of our friends to discuss how offensive Father was at Mass. Yet often Jesus’ first instruction lies hidden in the dust which we had self-righteously dusted from our feet; tell him his fault between you and him alone.
This sort of thing is not reserved only to Church matters. In fact it probably happens more often in the family and in marriages than anywhere else. When one spouse feels slighted he or she will often keep it inside and not address the issue “between you and him alone.” Instead, a spouse will often complain to the guys in the bowling group or the ladies at the coffee shop. These over eager ears, with their own varied opinions about marriage and love, will offer much advice but none will seek to go “with you so that every fact may be established.” Finally, the hurt spouse may confide in a higher authority, parents & in-laws. The final result is often “excommunication” of the offending spouse who all the while was unaware of the proceedings held against them.
Jesus’ words today can apply to our life in the Church as well as our family life. He wants us to work things out privately if possible so that charity may prevail. We are designed to live in community and these steps given to us by Our Lord can help ensure the peace of the community.
Lord, help me to stop my addiction to gossip. Help me to stop speaking about my co-workers, family members, and friends behind their backs. Give me the grace to “tell him his fault” and not tell everyone else his fault. Lord, if I am the one at fault, help me to humbly accept the correction given to me as though it comes from You. Give me the grace to always listen to the Church no matter what my situation may be.

FROM THE SAINTS - Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up to much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death. All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the heavenly kingdom.
- From admonitions to his son by Saint Stephen

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