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Assisting Those Who Are Stumbling

The Gospel for Sunday, 6 September 2020, reminds me of my time as a Commander in the Army and as site supervisor in the business community.  At times,  I would need to call a soldier or employee into my office in order to provide them with an azimuth check on their attitude, actions, and behavior with following the rules and doing what is asked of them.   There was an old saying that I would live by – “Praise in Public” and “Counsel in Private.”  This was not a time to criticize but to have an open discussion and get this person on the right track.  There were also times where I witnessed those that would also be working with their peers and/or subordinates with correcting/assisting again with an action, attitude, or behavior that could get one into trouble.  With no effective correction, a group meeting was in order with the soldier/employee, First Sergeant/manager, to support and assist.  If that failed, then disciplinary recourse could occur.   

The Gospel reading speaks of some of the initial counseling mechanisms used by the early Christians to deal with internal conflicts and those members who were not following the rules.   If the wrong directly affects one person, then that person or another should go along to the wrongdoer privately and try to help him/her change his/her ways. If this works, then that is the end of the matter. However, if the wrongdoer will not listen, then one or two others who are also aware of the wrongdoing should be brought along as corroboration. This is based on a passage from Deuteronomy: “A single witness cannot suffice to convict a man of a crime or offence of any kind; whatever the misdemeanor, the evidence of two witnesses or three is required to sustain the charge.” (Deut 19:15).

If the wrongdoer remains unmoved in the face of evidence, then the entire community was brought in. And, if in the face of the whole community, with no sign of repentance, then the person was expelled and treated like “a pagan or a tax collector”, in other words, a total outsider. It should be noted that tax collectors were among the most despised people in the community. They were locals employed by Romans to collect taxes and were hated and considered traitors to their own people and to their religion.

As we read the Gospel words, we become aware of our Christian responsibilities to our brothers and sisters in our own religious community. What do we do when we notice someone losing their Christian way?  Do we just shrug our shoulders? Do we denounce them or feel morally superior?

Absolutely not!  Today, Jesus is reminding us that by being members of His Church community, we are responsible for one another.  With that, one of our tasks of love is assisting and helping those who are stumbling.  As faithful, we could be called at times to provide support for a member of the faithful who has or is straying.  This support is an act of charity, done with patience, kindness, and prayer.  And, Jesus assures us he is present when two or three are gathered in His Holy name.

Let us all pray in gratitude for those who come together in the name of Jesus, and who make Him present in our life, our religious community, and our world with assisting those who need our support.

Blessings – Dcn Jim