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People often quarrel because they do not understand each other. Most times, people don’t understand each because they do not connect, though they might be communicating. People do not connect because they do not care and people do not often care because they fail to love and people do not love most times because they don’t understand that love is not selfish (1 Cor. 13:5) and God is love (1 John 4:8).

Misunderstanding, anger, enmity, disunity, and unforgiveness are contemporary viruses eating up the human society starting from various families. It is thus true that the devil plans to destroy the world starting from various families. If our goodness does not start from our different families then we are not truthful to ourselves; charity begins at home (1 Tim. 5:8).

In the Second Reading of today (Romans 13:8-10), St. Paul tells us to owe nothing to anyone except love because love is the fulfillment of the law. Paul’s exposition on love here reminds us of what our Lord Jesus Christ calls a new commandment and which states:

I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34).

The Gospel Reading presents us with a practical scenario that requires the incarnation of love as it affects the relationship we have with other people. Our Lord gives us a typical description of misunderstanding between two individuals and the possible steps towards a resolution. It is interesting to see in the passage that the victim (the offended) is the one that initiates and pushes the process of reconciliation.

Some people have only two approaches when they have issues with another person; to shut down completely or tell everyone else about it apart from the person in question.

The sincerity of purpose, maturity and above all, love should prod us to seek for a productive interface to settle our issues.

It is important to point out here that dialogue between the two parties should come before a third-party engagement. A thirty-party should be a neutral person who could tell the truth without judging or taking sides.

In our day and age, most individuals who come in as third-parties in conflict situations end up causing more harm and estrangement to the relationship. Being third-party is not a license to insult and disrespect people.

The Church comes in as a community of love when reconciliation fails at both interpersonal and third-party levels. The duty of the Church in this regard is to remind the individuals what the word of God says.

In the manner of the oracle of Ezekiel in the First Reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9), it is the duty of the Church to speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way. Of course, anyone who refuses to accept reconciliation in the two preceding steps could qualify as wicked.

The Church is now speaking to our warring parties and us as we read or listen to this reflection. The message of reconciliation tells us to forgive each other and be open to reconciliation we receive same from God (Luke 6:37).

On the face value, we could assume that our Lord is suggesting that one should give up when a brother refuses to accept reconciliation after many efforts.

To understand what our Lord means by treating him like a Gentile or Tax Collector, we need to go back to the Gospels to rediscover our Lord’s approach to Gentiles and Tax Collectors.

During the dedication of our Lord Jesus Christ in the temple Simeon, the Priest declared that our Lord would like a light of the Gentiles and glory of Israel (Luke 2:32). The Samaritan woman, a Gentile, encounters the Lord at the well and emerged a better person (John 4:7ff). The faith of the Syrophoenician woman before our Lord brings about the healing of her daughter (Matt. 15:21-28). One of the ten lepers who returns to thank our Lord after receiving healing was a Gentile (Luke 17:11-19).

With regards to Tax Collectors, Matthew, one of them, receives the call to from our Lord and becomes of the apostles (Matt. 9:9-13). Our Lord Jesus Christ discovered Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector on a tree and brought salvation to his house (Luke 19:1-10).

In all, our Lord shows special love and attention to the Gentiles and Tax Collectors. Going back to the question of treating a brother who refuses reconciliation like a Gentile or Tax Collector, our Lord is saying that we should show them more love.

The concluding part of the Gospel passage tells us what reconciliation and unity can do for us. We receive authority to bind and to loose, we shall agree and pray and get answers because our heavenly father will be in our midst and when He is with us nobody can be against us. (Romans 8:31)

As we march into a new week, let us work towards unity by reconciling our difference and allowing love to guide our steps.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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