Community and Mercy

Sunday 23, Year A

(00:00:00) – So this question of what do you do when you get into an argument, when a fight, a dispute breaks out, when something has happened that has put you off side? How do you respond to that situation? And I’m sure for every single one of us, you know, various scenarios will be able to be played out in our minds. You know, we have all kinds of experiences. Human beings are extraordinary in just how much we can rise to the occasion, how much compassion, how much mercy, how much extraordinary generosity some people are able to demonstrate and to provide. And there are other times when humans are just capable of being cruel and manipulative and just awful kind of manifestations that they wouldn’t be proud of themselves and certainly wouldn’t make their parents or other members of the community proud. And so this experience of what do we do when that happens? How do we actually address that? And Jesus is very straightforward in the gospel today. You know, he’s just been teaching about how crucial it is for the little ones to be protected, the vulnerable ones in the community.

(00:01:21) – And he gives the example, he tells us the parable, the short form that we have in Matthew’s gospel, you know, imagine the Shepherd has 100 sheep, one goes wandering off. What does he do? He leaves the 99 to go and to search for that vulnerable one. There’s always this manifestation of caring for the poorest, caring for the one who is the least one who is on the margins. The one that Pope Francis is so much encouraging us as a church and as a community to continue to be mindful for mindful of those who are there on the edges, those who don’t have the support networks that so many of us do have. And he then presents he continues with this teaching today. If there is an argument, if there is a dispute, if some somebody has sinned against you and the presumption is it’s something serious, it’s something significant and substantial, It’s not just something trivial, It’s not something that you can just pass over, something that has life shattering consequences. This is the kind of substance that we’re talking about.

(00:02:27) – What do we do? How do we address this? And the presumption is that the person who has suffered in this case, the victim of this incidents, is meant to go and first talk to the other person about what happened, go and confront them, see what the story is. There’s something else that is happening that that you don’t know about. What is the back story, What’s the other side of the story? Because it always takes two to tango in any given situation. But no, it’s not. Go and talk about it on social media. It’s not about go and use X (aka Twitter) to X about it or to offer this opportunity to go and to tell some other close friend that, you know, is a notorious gossip to share this news with them, to share, you know, how terrible this person has sinned against you. That’s not the first instance. And yet, so often across our history, that has been the first instance that we go and talk about it to somebody else.

(00:03:28) – But Jesus says, no, go first to this person. Go to this other person and talk to them, share with them. And so often in my life, I found that if I do that, if I’m able simply to go and to talk to the other person that has done something that I’m offended by, how easily and how quickly that situation can be resolved. And it’s a wonderful and beautiful moment when that happens. If it doesn’t happen, if the person isn’t able to own what they’ve done, if they’re not able to be offering to offer some explanation or not able to offer forgiveness or apology in that situation, then go and find a couple of other people not as randoms, not as strangers, not people again that are more likely simply to take your side. It’s meant to be people that are representative of the whole community, people that are part of the church, people that you respect, people that you want, a people that you trust, that you know will be able to hear both sides of the story.

(00:04:28) – They’ll be able to to offer their insights. They’ll be able to present an interpretation. And just to have that listening ear, to be able to receive the story, go and bring them with you and again, talk to the person about it. Hopefully that will be enough. That will be the opportunity to this person needs to be able to to acknowledge what has happened and to acknowledge that they did wrong in this situation. And then if that still doesn’t work, then you go and you. Whole, the whole community. You allow this person to present themselves before the whole assembly because whenever these things happen, whenever there is this rift that begins to tear apart the very fabric of a community, you know, it becomes the very essence of the community’s life and begins to tear it apart, begins to slowly unravel the edges of what it is to be in community. Because trust is such an essential part of what it is to live as the people of God. So this invitation for us is to indeed to trust in the work of the community.

(00:05:35) – And finally, if the person isn’t able to to even acknowledge the the whole community gathered there before them, telling them that what they did was this foolish and hurtful and shameful or whatever the situation was, then to treat them like an outsider, to treat them like a pagan, to treat them like a tax collector with compassion. How did Jesus treat those who are the outsiders, people who are on the margins? He ate with them. He drank with them. He healed them. He taught them. He didn’t isolate and allow them just to be completely persona non grata. They weren’t completely excluded from the community. But there has to be boundaries. There has to be some point, some line that we draw in order to maintain and uphold the dignity and the right of the whole community. And so this this boundary that we were invited into, this experience, this encounter with the wonder of what God is inviting us into, you know, is such a key moment for us as a whole community to acknowledge that there are those moments in our lives when things happen that we have to confront, that we have to acknowledge that we can’t just ignore them.

 

(00:06:46) – You know, so often as Christians, we just kind of think, Oh, well, we’ll just whitewash that. We’ll just paper over that, we’ll just ignore that that is happening and that has never served us well. Jesus invites us to confront it, but He invites us to confront it in this very courageous and forward thinking way. It’s such a challenging teaching because it’s not something that we as humans have been very good at doing. You know, we’ve always simply gone the path of gossip. We’ve gone the path of shaming publicly a person without these opportunities to repent, these opportunities to experience the wonder of God’s mercy. Today we’re challenged. Today we’re invited to acknowledge that there are those times when things happen that we need to confront, that we need to face. We can’t just whitewash them. We can’t just sweep them under the carpet. We need to acknowledge them, confront them and deal with them. But in this very systematic and beautiful way, that’s about mercy and about inviting us more deeply into the heart of God.

 

(00:07:45) – So today, let’s indeed ponder about those times and those situations in our lives, those little wounds that are there that have been festering away for too long and to just to see, can I do something today? Can I take a step that will begin to bring healing to that situation? Can I acknowledge that there’s part of me that I need to to repent of the elements of my life that I need to acknowledge and deal with, and then allow God to invite us more deeply into that moment of encountering all again for the good of the whole church, the good of the whole community, that together we have this right to bind and to loose. It’s not just the apostles, it’s not just Peter that was given that that gift. It’s the whole church that we’re meant to bind and loose the whole community. And we all have a role and responsibility within that church, within our community, to be people that acknowledge powerfully and truthfully that those moments when there is rupture, that we need to do something about it, that we need to confront evil and acknowledge injustice, but we need to do it in a way that upholds the rights and dignity of everyone involved.

(00:08:53) – Today, let’s indeed pray for opportunities to bring about reconciliation, to bring about freedom, to bring about this experience of the forgiveness of God’s love and God’s kindness that we alone are able to experience and encounter today.

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