23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020 A (HOMILY)
Our Gospel text (Matt 18: 15-20) speaks, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This one sentence from the Gospel teaches us on how we can repair and nurture our relationships with one another and with God.
Some of us, when they come for their personal confession and I have noticed that they recite the lengthy Act of Contrition prayer. A number of them struggle to say it by heart. Of course I respect their initiative to recite the lengthy one. But I always advise them, to recite the shorter one which goes, “Lord, I am heartly sorry, for I have sinned against You, and by the help of Your grace, I shall not sin again.” This shorter version is so simple, straight and everyone can remember it by heart. It is easy to understand the meaning of the prayer, hopefully not to complicate our internalisation as we begin to reflect and admit our wrongs.
It is not so much of praying the lengthy Act of Contrition and accomplishing the penance so that we will be free from sins. But what is the most important, is to work on the reconciliation with our fellow brothers and sisters (i.e. our neighbours). We need to work on our reunion with our opponents, rather than alienate ourselves from them. We may be broken and feel remorseful but only by God’s grace, that we may be able to reconcile with God, with His marvellous creation on earth, His peoples – the brothers and sister, the families and communities.
A friend of mine has shared with me about his reluctance to reconcile with his elder brother for almost 35 years. His elder brother went to further his studies abroad. After completing his studies and spending years in overseas he returned home. The young brother thought that he would be thankful to his parents by supporting them financially or at least being physically present in his parents’ home. But his brother chose to be on his own, and he got married and is living quite wealthily. He didn’t even care for his parents. Eventually, his parents passed on. These two brothers have not been going on in reaching out to each other, to the point of being strangers to each other.
He shared that this is painful because of early younger days events that strained their relationship. Some of us have experienced the similar pain that broken relationship. Most of us have experienced the pain that causes from broken marriages, or even between siblings and friends. Those hurt we may be carrying that hurt for a very long time. But today, my friend prays and he hopes that one day, they will come to this common place, where they can be together again.
Everybody falls. “For though the upright falls seven times, he gets up again,” (Proverbs 24:16). Even when we hurt our relationship with God, through sins that we commit, God still look to heal and restore that relationship with us, that’s one of God’s purposes. As the Gospel says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This is easier said than done, but courage, patience and hope will help us pull through. It also requires humility, a fraternal correction. We should not be a hypocrite or be prideful. The first thing we do when we are offended or hurt, is to communicate and take revenge with the ones who hurt us. Some walks away silently, carrying that burden too. Whether the other party asks for our forgiveness or remains unrepentant, forgiveness needed to be sought after, for ourselves and for the offender. God grants us that peace. That repairs our own spiritual and emotional health, and it manifest well into our physical beings.
In the second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (13:8-10), St Paul teaches us on how we should behave towards others. He says that “anyone is love for one another, for to love other person is to fulfil the law.” Each Christian has to love in the light of Christ’s love for us and in return our love for God and our neighbours will grow and shine on others. Jesus has showed us how to love one another unconditionally and therefore, let us go out and love one another.
“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” (PS 95)
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy