A reflection on the Scripture readings for Sunday, September 7, 2008. In this Gospel reading Jesus is explaining how the community should deal with someone that is sinning against a member or the community as a whole. First, we approach the person in private. If that works we have "won over your brother." Some versions say you have "gained your brother," which is a technical rabbinic term for missionary conversion. If this stage doesn't work, we bring one or two witnesses so that we can more easily get to the facts. If unsuccessful we escalated it "to the church", which could mean the community or a group representing the community. If the person still refuses to accept and correct the sin, then Jesus recommends a drastic measure: "then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector." This means to exclude the person from the community, probably to protect the community from the impact of this person's actions and future actions.
What I found most challenging in today's readings is that it's not enough to empathize with a sinner, or to "forgive those who trespass against us." Jesus challenges us to be proactive and take the person aside to confront them with their sin and see what we or the members of the community can do for the person. Why? The answer is in the second reading, love, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Moved by love, we would go out of our way to help the sinner, but also to protect future victims of whatever the sin may be. Impact? We find this in the first reading, "If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death." We are partly responsible for not speaking out.
Tough challenge, compelling reason, and a significant impact of ignoring our responsibility. Well, I have a few people to call today, for which I have been praying, but not confronting 1:1.