23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time   

            No matter how hard we try, we will never find ourselves in perfect harmony with others. If we stand for anything, there will be some people who will disagree with us, even vehemently. If we try to change something, some will not like it and will resist it, even fiercely. If we strive to accomplish something, we are going to offend some people. They will then make it their business not to get along with us.

            It is because of this that the actions of others – sometimes very real, sometimes imagined – threaten our worth, our freedom and reputation. We feel slighted and we want to get even. “It is not fair!” we say, and we fight back trying to recover our good reputation. That is why there are lovers’ quarrels, differences among friends, conflicts between husbands and wives, disputes among siblings, hatred among families, deep-seated division within a community.

            Jesus’ words in today’s gospel are very simple and to the point. He knows that his disciples will not always see eye to eye, and they will not always work together in total agreement. He knows there will be differences, arguments and disputes. He knows that feelings will be hurt; anger will be aroused; harsh words will be spoken; antagonism set in. If they are to love as he commands them, then they must settle these arguments, extend forgiveness and be reconciled with one another. (James Menapace)

            Few of us have the conviction and courage to put into practice the teaching of Jesus on fraternal (sisterly) correction. Ang madalas na ginagawa natin ay ang pag-usapan ang kapwa at ang pagkukulang o pagkakamali niya sa likuran niya – na laging nauuwi sa tsismis at paninira. Mas pinipili nating i-broadcast o ibunyag sa buong barangay ang ating puna o hinaing o grievance sa kapatid natin kaysa gawin ang mga hakbang na sinasabi ni Hesus. Well, engaging in gossip or back-biting is easier than following Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel.

            Genuine care (love) shows itself in the interest we take for the welfare of others and in the help we offer them to be better Christians. Such a loving concern will sometimes also take the form of admonishing and warning someone who is doing evil. We must take responsibility to correct an erring brother or sister.

            Ang isang Kristiyano na tunay na nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit sa kapwa ay hindi nahihiya o natatakot na ituwid ang pagkakamali ng kapatid. However, we must keep in mind what somebody said about this matter: “People will not care what you know until they know that you care.” This is absolutely true in the context of fraternal (sisterly) correction. In admonishing and correcting a brother or a sister, we should really try first to make him or her feel our genuine care and concern – nothing less.

            St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading (from his Letter to the Romans): “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another…” Sa madaling sabi, isang bagay lang ang dapat maging dahilan o motibo natin sa pagtatama sa kapatid natin: PAG-IBIG.

            When you and I come to the end of our days, just remember this – I am just paraphrasing a reflection I have read: God will not ask what kind of car we drove…He will ask how many people we helped get where they needed to go. God will not ask how big our house was…He will ask how many people we welcomed into our home. God will not ask how what neighborhood we lived in…He will ask how we treated our neighbors. God will not ask how many fences we made…He will ask how many bridges we built. Sad to say, we are more preoccupied with having cars and mansions, and with gaining social status and privilege, than with establishing and maintaining meaningful and healthy human relationships, and with mending and restoring broken relationships through Christian dialogue and reconciliation. We seem to be working more to build fences and walls that separate or set us apart from one another.

            However, the Lord wants us to build a bridge between us and a brother or a sister we are in conflict with. Today’s gospel reading is a practical instruction on how to build such a bridge. We must reach out to an erring brother or sister, we must take the initiative or the first step in the process of reconciliation. We must do so in the spirit of humility and charity, knowing that we are responsible for one another.

            Repeating the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading: “Love does no evil to the neighbor.” We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Our love for our neighbor must be a forgiving, healing and reconciling love.          

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