(23rd Ordinary Sunday: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus foresees that conflicts will inevitably arise between members of his Church.
His first concern is that the matter be resolved peacefully. It must not be allowed to fester, leading to serious divisions that might spread into the community.
It is equally important, however, that the issue be kept within the Church. In 1 Corinthians 6, St. Paul complains about believers bringing cases to civil courts: “Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough to be able to settle a case between brothers? But rather brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers?”
Many religious communities have (or had) an exercise called “fraternal correction.” In pairs or small groups, members point out one another’s failings. Ideally, each would take the comments to heart with gratitude and strive to improve oneself.
Some might even be called to a more prophetic stance, especially if they believe that the community itself is in danger of going astray. Like Ezekiel, they feel a personal responsibility to challenge others.
The hard thing in all this is to be faithful to the commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We ought to behave towards one another without giving or taking offense, and with no hardening of the heart. Then the issue of reconciliation does not arise.
However, since the Church is made up of real persons, occasional conflict will arise, ranging anywhere from strong differences of opinion to serious accusations of wrongdoing. The first condition for reconciliation that it be genuinely desired by both parties.
What does any of this have to do with La Salette, one might ask? A great deal. Mary addressed herself to a people absorbed with their own troubles and blaming God. They had so lost sight of Christ, that reconciliation did not even occur to them.
It took a Beautiful Lady, speaking in prophetic terms, to make them see that reconciliation was desirable and achievable. Through her tears, she offered maternal correction, giving us a model of the truly reconciling heart.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.