August 12, 2020
by Ronald Fussell
Creighton University's Educational Leadership Program
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 415

Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22
Psalm 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Matthew 18:15-20

Praying Ordinary Time

An Invitation to Make the Online Retreat

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

An Even Better Marriage

As I took time to reflect on today’s Gospel, I found myself thinking about the theme of interpersonal conflict in relationships.  In some ways, conflict can be beneficial, particularly when it leads to truth.  However, conflict can arise unexpected and difficult ways.  And, when sin is at the root of conflict, it makes it difficult to move a relationship forward.

Honestly, when I took time to reflect on this familiar passage, I originally found it to be a bit disconcerting.  After all, this passage is often identified as the one that addresses Church discipline.  For me, the process dealing with sin and forgiveness with witnesses, and eventually a congregation, is overwhelming.  What could I possible have to say about that?  Then, I considered the deeper meaning.  I found myself getting too caught up process (which I learned in this case stems from Hebrew law) and instead focused on substance.

This passage is as much about heart of forgiveness as it is about the process resolving conflict that arises from sin.  With that in mind, I humbly offer a few dimensions to consider:

First, I think that this passage speaks the true meaning forgiving, which is “to give future to a relationship.”  Forgiving doesn’t mean to forgive and forget.  We can all think of times in our own lives where sin has brought conflict into a relationship.  Surely, it’s very difficult to build a bridge forward.  But, we need to try to work through issues with a spirit of grace and Christian charity.  Jesus provides that model, in how he takes on the sins of the world for the salvation of mankind.

Also, Jesus didn’t say that we confront conflict that arises from sin by gossiping with friends or acquaintances.  Rather, the first step is to always confront the conflict directly.  Often, it requires a courageous heart, as we typically tend to avoid these moments of tension.

Finally, we hear the reassuring words that when two or more are gathered in Jesus’s name, that he is with us.  What a wonderful affirmation that when we can collaboratively align our own needs with Jesus’s hope for us, that we move forward together on a path toward salvation.

For me, applying all of this in my life is obvious.  You see, there is a personality trait in my family known as the “Fussell Grudge.”  We tend not to forgive, and instead sever relationships with those who have wronged us.  I find myself guilty of this as well, and even joke about it from time to time.  This passage is always a powerful reminder to me that it is more important to rebuild relationships with others than to terminate them.

I once worked in a school sponsored by a religious order, and embedded that order’s Rule of Life was the notion that brothers would “love each other enough to correct each other when they are wrong.”  I pray that this same love will be at the core of our relationships with others so that we can walk this spiritual journey together, with a spirit of forgiveness, just as Christ intended.

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