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I sat down this week with the teachers in St. Joseph’s Academy to arrange this year’s set of retreats.  With the benefit of having St. Matthew’s Church nearby, it means that I can offer a set of one-day retreats for each class in 1st year and 3rd year and 6th year. These take place at various times throughout the school year and this week we were simply working out what year group would go when.  When reading this week’s Gospel about correcting our brother and sister’s faults, I was reminded of one of last year’s retreats.  It was the one for 6th years where we were trying to understand the command of Jesus – “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  What our programme tries to get the 6th Years to understand is that, before you can love others, you must begin to love yourself, appreciate yourself, value yourself.  We do this by a series of red triangles (where you write the things that you do not like about yourself) and green circles (where you write the things you DO like about yourself).  What I say to the 6th Years is that it’s a real challenge – a whole life’s challenge not just for 18 year olds but also 38 year olds and 78 year olds.  And bringing that idea into today’s Gospel (which is also about correcting OTHERS), I now open it up to everyone …. are you willing to be corrected yourself, to have YOUR faults pointed out to you.  Are you willing to have your sins forgiven?  As I say a challenge for ALL your life

 

 

 

In today’s Gospel the key question from Jesus was what to do about a sister or a brother who sins, who causes harm within the community.  We know that first century Palestine did not have the sophisticated justice system of judges, courts and jails that we have today and that, if someone committed a crime against the community, then there was a system of exclusion from that community where they had to think about the consequences of the crime that had committed.  Then there was a system of re-entry into the community so that they could be welcomed back, restored and forgiven.  This was also the system within Matthew’s emerging Christian community whereby, if someone committed a sin against the community, then they had to be set apart from the faithful community where the people would have time to reflect on their actions before being restored to the community and to God.  It was a faith process much like the way people became members of the Church: they weren’t simply magic-ed into the Church overnight.  They had to take part in a process where they reflected before God and with the help of friends and family how they stood before God.  In this process, they had to reflect on their sin and then how they stood before God and his living forgiveness.

 

 

 

Of course today’s Gospel is about correcting faults.  It is natural for us to think about the faults of others.  As we hear the Gospel words today “when your brother and sister does something wrong, go and have it out with them …”, it is easy for us to think on the stories we read about in the papers or about the hurts that have been done to us within family and community.  However, I think the real challenge of today is to think about our OWN sins, our OWN  faults.  WE are the ones who are challenged by today’s Gospel.  Challenged to name our own sins.  Challenged to see the need to restore ourselves to the community.  Challenged to see that we ourselves have been forgiven by the merciful face of Jesus and by the love of God the Father.

 

 

 

If justice and mercy within our world were just down to our efforts, we might succeed in some way and we might fail.  However, if our correcting of others and restoring of justice to others is preceded by the knowledge that we ourselves have been forgiven and loved and graced, then we will always succeed – WITH THE FORGIVENESS OF JESUS.

 

 

 

 

 

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