September 10, 2023
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings for Today
Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” Matthew 18:15
It takes much humility and a pure heart to confront another person with their sin in such a way that they listen and repent. Normally, confronting another with their sin is done more out of anger than it is out of love. We ought not confront another with their sin out of our woundedness and a desire to inflict guilt as retribution. We ought not confront another to humiliate them or harm them. We should only bring up another’s sin because we love them and have already forgiven them and now want them free of their sin for their own good. When this happens and when this is our sole motivation, another might more easily receive correction.
This teaching, however, should not only be looked at from the point of view of us confronting others with their sins. It must also be looked at from the perspective of others confronting us with our sins. We sin every day. We sin against those whom we love every day. Therefore, try to think about someone close to you bringing your sin to your attention. How do you react when this happens? Perhaps if they did so with the most pure motivation and compassion, you would listen. But what if they did so because they were angry? Though this is not the ideal way for someone to confront you, it doesn’t give you the right to reject what they say. Therefore, it is a good spiritual practice to listen to anyone’s concern they bring to you regarding your sin, no matter how they bring it. If, after listening and evaluating their concern with humility you see they are right, even to some degree, then the loving response is to express sorrow, apologize and commit yourself to change. If, however, after humbly evaluating their concern you do not believe that you have sinned, then it is time for you to gently and compassionately try to confront that person with their rash and false judgment.
This passage gives three successive levels of confronting a person. First, it must be done one-on-one. Second, it is done with two or three others. Third, it is done in the presence of the Church. Try, at first, to set aside the second and third approach and only look at the first one. The goal of this one-on-one confrontation is reconciliation. It is good to put much energy into reflecting upon how well you do with this sort of situation because if you can do it well, there will be no need for the second or third form of confrontation.
The number one enemy of reconciliation is pride. Pride is a habit by which we think about ourselves first and foremost, or even exclusively in the most serious cases. Pride makes self-evaluation impossible. We become blind to our sin and are agitated the moment it is identified or causes problems. Of course, the opposite of pride is humility. This is the virtue that enables us to forget about ourselves and have concern only for others. When a person grows in humility, the evil one will always tempt them with thoughts such as: What about you? You are right and they are wrong! This is unfair! You shouldn’t be treated this way! These tempting thoughts must always be rejected. Humility only makes sense when we are humble. To the person who has pride, humility will seem foolish. But humility is true wisdom.
Reflect, today, upon how humble you are when someone expresses concern to you about your sin. How do you react? Do you find yourself getting angry and defensive when this happens? If so, be honest and admit to yourself that this is pride; this is your sin. Spend time trying to reflect upon the ideal and humble way you should respond when confronted by another. If reconciliation is your number-one priority in any relationship that has experienced hurt, then that holy and humble desire will become your guide to being able to reconcile with everyone in your life.
Most merciful Lord, You came to earth to reconcile us to You and to one another. Please show me my sin and give me the humility I need to see it so that I can repent and turn back to You. Help me to also be open to the many ways that You reveal my sin to me, especially through the mediation of others in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows
Traditionally prayed September 7–15