“Where two or three meet in my name I shall be there with them.”
In the gospel Jesus asks us to correct wrongdoing. He also promises to assist those who work for reconciliation. Within the family it is a great relief to be forgiven after you have offended someone. You can then be more at ease in their company and in your own heart. On the other hand, if you have been wronged, your greatest gift to another is a share with them the healing mercy and goodness you have received from God. On those occasions Jesus helps to direct your mind and heart so that you are patient, remain in conversation, filled with a spirit of hopefulness about overcoming disharmony and wrongdoing.
Jesus proposes guidelines for winning back our brothers and sisters who have gone astray. The first step is to ask for his guidance and then to seek practical agreement among ourselves. Even if we fail initially the next step is to persevere. Tell your tongue to be slow to blame and complain and ask for patience. Jesus is working with you as you resolve to make another effort to bring light into the gloom.
You may have to wait and pray when a person is stubborn or has an addiction. History is full of remarkable changes of heart. Great saints like Monica and Vincent de Paul never gave up, leaving room in their hearts and homes for the wrongdoer to come back. They did not let good initiatives be thwarted and cooperated with God’s grace to overcome the sinner’s stubbornness and self-indulgence.
Christian values can emerge in strange places. In Ireland the public called for repentance from powerful people who acted as if they were beyond the law for ordinary citizens. If only they had developed a Christ-like humility beforehand?
Some do not learn. It’s been a month of race riots in USA and much irresponsible stoking of hatred. It may have satisfied basic emotions to blame and complain but it would have been better to meet colleagues to discuss the issues and come to an agreement about the right words to say. It would have been better to speak to the perceived enemy keeping in mind the words of Jesus who guides the heart and voice.
On a worldwide scale we can lament how warfare and cruelty seem to defeat those with political power, But we are not powerless. We can support peace-workers who do so much to help innocent people in warzones. The gospel advises patience and discussion and reasonable sanctions. Jesus assures us that reasonable efforts will be blessed from heaven. He joins his followers who take part in initiatives for peace in family, parish, work and global conflict.
What to do when dialogue does not work out? Many world leaders turn to vilification and condemnation. Jesus disagrees, but he is not naive. He asks us never to join the persistent wrongdoers, like the tax collectors or pagans of his day who get tied into institutional injustice or sinful situations. We are not to be afraid to disagree publicly and we are never to collude with the perpetrators. But conversion requires huge effort. Think of how Jesus faced up to sinners. He was aware that many were tied into sinful behaviour either because they had gone astray themselves or others had fouled things up for them or they were too timid to say No. He advises us to be patient and persistent in our efforts to correct and convert; it is wonderful to create the conditions where people can change. By following the guidelines of Jesus within our families and wider society we can be blessed to reach a deeper understanding of ourselves and others and of the mercy of God.