Our workplace seems to be an area where we have acceptable conflict. Our values are pushed aside for the sake of work success. The message of Christian love is left at the door of our offices. Inside the office when conflict arise, we engage in bare-knuckled blows to each other’s reputations. There is a marked difference between being a friend or a colleague.
“If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.” (Today’s Gospel)
Being a Christian, we have a personal obligation to not hurt our neighbour. This obligation is not passive or self-guarding. When we confess our sins, we also confess for what we have failed to do. One of our most common failures is to fail to love our neighbours when we go about our worldly affairs. Love is the action of evangelisation. Love is proof of Christian faith.
In the early days of this pandemic, we hear the rallying cries that “we are in this together” and that “humanity is one”. Imagine if there was mutual love for one another; this love would have been the vaccine against all the sufferings from this virus. These rallying cries are less audible now because in truth, we have found it difficult to love one another.
“Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations.” (Second Reading)
When we were baptised, we became a privileged child of God. A parent owes unconditional love to a child. God knows that a child cannot survive without love. But love can only survive if it is mutual. When we were baptised, the seed of evangelisation was planted in us. Evangelisation is our obligation. When we were baptised, talents were invested in us, not for keeping under our pillows but for us to invest to help our neighbours from hurting.
This pandemic has closed the doors of our churches, leaving us a message. In the struggles of these extraordinary times, the church is much needed outside its buildings. “We must look out for one another” is another rallying cry of this pandemic. There are many out there struggling with material needs but there also are many struggling with spiritual needs. It is our obligation to help in both. As the doors of the churches are closed, we are let loose to evangelise.
One area is to realise that our congregation is no longer the same. In this pandemic, some who have not been part of church are returning after many years, seeking, and searching. While some who have been an ever present may decide not to come back having lost grip of what has been church to them – a Sunday obligation. These ins and outs have changed the composition and needs of our congregation, and this is knocking on those closed doors.
Friends, colleagues, and strangers are alike; we are all neighbours. These knocks say to us that we must be church to them, a church alive in every area. There are no acceptable conflicts particularly now in this pandemic.
“If I say to a wicked man: Wicked wretch, you are to die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked man to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” (First Reading)
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time