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The Bond of Peace
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
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. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Opening Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, unify us in your love. Help me be open to gently admonishing others in their sins and likewise being admonished myself, when necessary. Help me to put on your love and be unified to my family in Christ.
- Managing Conflict: Disputes will arise wherever people work side-by-side, and our parishes are no different. Our Church is made up of humans, and every one of us are sinful in our own way. Today’s Gospel reading explains how to manage conflicts caused by sin that arise within our churches. Handling situations like these in a Christian manner is essential to the well-being of a parish. Notice how the dispute in this Gospel passage begins with the most discreet confrontation (between two people) and increases to the most public (testimony to the church). We should strive to resolve disputes quietly, if possible. We can also ask ourselves how we would feel if a friend approached us about a fault or sin of ours. Would we be humble enough to listen and be won over to repentance by our brother or sister?
- Christian Unity: Unity is one of the Church’s greatest assets. When we gather together as Christ’s disciples, the Holy Spirit is among us: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Not only is the Spirit among us, but if we agree on what to pray about, God the Father will grant our prayers, according to his will. Just two disciples in unified prayer is all it takes! May we have consolation that when we gather as a parish community to pray and worship–even in the smallest of our small groups–God is with us, unifying us with his love.
- Love Equals Peace: The Holy Spirit is indeed the Spirit of unity. We cannot achieve harmony on our own; we need the grace of the Holy Spirit to unify us through love. St. Paul instructed Christians to live “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3). St. Paul does not say that this will be easy; he is a realist. We all have things in us that others must endure, but the Holy Spirit of love that unites us makes peace possible.
Conversing with Christ: Dear Jesus, help me to put on your love when I deal with my brother and sister disciples. Help me to remember that no one is perfect, including and most especially myself. Please give me the grace to pray for the Christian bonds of peace, unity, and harmony whenever conflicts arise.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray specifically for unity in my parish.
For Further Reflection: Read this article on the Holy Spirit and the Principle of Unity from the Carmelites Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.
Written by Carey Boyzuck.