People in Church

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 10 September 2023

Trust the Process

In our First Reading today, the prophet Ezekiel was appointed by God “watchman” for the house of Israel. He is not only to preach to them but also he must make sure they turn away from their wicked ways. It is a very daunting task requiring both responsibility and accountability. That is what it means to be a brother’s or sister’s keeper. It is showing genuine concern for the well-being of their bodies and souls.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he told them that love is the fulfilment of the law. All other commandments are centered on affirming, confirming and strengthening our love for one another. Paul so beautifully put it, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” Love is both a priority and a commitment.

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us the way to deal with erring brothers and sisters. First, approach him or her personally. If it doesn’t work, take one or two witnesses with you. If the person refuses, raise the matter to the community. And if the person still does not listen, treat him or her like a pagan or tax collecter. The last step seems to suggest that if we have done our very best, then, so be it. Leave the person alone.

Many of us tend to disregard the steps. We often, immediately, take the matter to some other friends for the purpose of strengthening our offense. At times, we go directly to the community to be the first, as some believe that it is the first who often gets heard. Or, maybe, for some, it is best to jump straight to treat the person like a pagan or tax collector, which for them meant cutting ties totally with the person at fault. How convenient all these could be.

There is always wisdom in trusting the process. It means letting go and having faith that things will eventually work out in its own time. Certainly, the process helps us to become more patient. Patience for St Paul, is the very first attribute of love. The proces also may enable us to see more sides and angles of the story, the bigger picture. The process teaches us that reconciliation is not just about proving ourselves right, but winning back our brother or sister.

Finally, when Jesus said, treat someone a pagan or a tax collector, let us not forget how He actually treated them. He has shown even greater compassion and mercy to them. And we, who follow Jesus, must do the same. I believe, what He truly meant is, do not give up! Give everyone a chance, a second chance, all the chances. “Not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” Maybe, it’s not just about helping people to know what is right but forgiving and most importantly, loving them.

Fr Gilbert Ramos

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