HOMILY FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: TALK IT OVER.
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Halima and Ijeoma lived in the same town and attended the same primary and secondary schools. They were the best of friends since childhood and they shared their dreams, joys, and sorrow. At some stage when they were in the University, Halima noticed a troubling change in Ijeoma’s behaviour. Ijeoma was beginning to isolate herself, abdicate her responsibilities, and was no longer as diligent as she was. Ijeoma began to isolate herself and hang out with friends who were reckless and gave little attention to her studies. Her choice of friends and new lifestyle affected her academic performance.
Halima was deeply concerned for her friend but knew that confronting Halima about her behaviour would be a delicate matter. She didn’t want to push her away or make her defensive. Instead, Halima decided to approach the situation with love and compassion. One sunny afternoon, Halima invited Ijeoma to a quiet park in the town, a place where they had made countless cherished memories together. They sat on a bench, and Halima gently began the conversation, “Ijeoma, I’ve noticed that you’ve been going through a tough time lately. I want you to know that I care about you deeply, and I’m here for you no matter what. Can you please tell me what’s been bothering you?” Tears welled up in Ijeoma’s eyes as she realized her friend’s sincere concern. She began to open up about her struggles, admitting that she had been feeling overwhelmed and lost. Halima listened attentively, offering a comforting presence.
Instead of criticizing or pointing out Ijeoma’s mistakes, Halima chose to share stories of their friendship’s strength and the potential she saw in Ijeoma. She reminded her of the person she had always been and the dreams they had shared. Halima said, “You’ve always been such a bright and resilient person, Ijeoma. I believe in you, and I know you can overcome these challenges. But you don’t have to do it alone. Let’s work through this together. We can find the help you need, and I’ll be by your side every step of the way.” Ijeoma was deeply moved by Halima’s kindness and support. She realised she didn’t have to carry her burdens alone and that her friend’s love was unwavering. With Halima’s help, Ijeoma sought professional guidance and began her journey toward healing and self-improvement.
Over time, Ijeoma’s life improved, and their friendship grew even stronger. Halima’s approach of correcting with love, empathy, and unwavering support not only helped her friend through a difficult time but also strengthened the bond between them. It served as a powerful reminder that love and compassion can be the most effective tools when guiding someone back onto the right path.
And so Prophet Ezekiel speaks of the need to take responsibility for each other – being each other’s keeper. The prophet says, if you do not warn the wicked to change his ways, you will be held accountable for his death. On the other hand, if you warn him and he refuses to change, you have exonerated yourself and he will be held accountable for his actions (33:7-9). It takes courage to correct a friend or brother.
It is not always easy to speak candidly to someone who is on the road to self-destruction. If one must do so, it must be with a deep sense of love, humility, respect, a non-judgmental attitude, and genuine concern for the person. When one sets out to offer fraternal correction, he/she should expect different reactions and these include appreciation, indifference or outright rejection.
One of the real tests of love occurs during moments of conflict. The people we love most are often the people who offend us more. How do you approach someone who has offended you deeply with his words, remarks or actions? Do you pretend all is okay and continue to give a superficial smile when there is a cankerworm of anger eating deep into your soul? How should a community deal with difficult and dangerous people who poison peace and harmony with their attitudes and actions?
We can be so upset when we are offended and we react differently to different people and situations. Sometimes we react by keeping silent. At other times we keep complaining to people about how we were offended. We tend to talk to everyone about the person or group that has offended us without summoning the courage to speak directly to the person concerned. What happens is that the friends of the offended begin to react towards the offender. The offender gets confused and wonders what he or she has done to this group and gradually a web of hatred begins. This silent treatment forms a triangle of misunderstanding consisting of the offender, the offended, and sympathisers of the offended. Naturally, a conflict has a ripple effect and has the capacity to spread like cancer by affecting a wide section of the community. It takes only one person to light the match of disharmony.
Sometimes reconciliation takes extra effort, especially when one party refuses to co-operate or makes the process extremely difficult. The Gospel of Matthew imagines such a scenario and proposes some practical steps for reconciliation.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church” (Matthew 18:15-20).
Usually, the offender is expected to step forward, express his remorse, and ask for forgiveness. The Gospel recommends something different where the offended is saddled with the duty of seeking reconciliation with the offender. The person who is offended is to reach out to the offender.
A comedian says, “I have misunderstandings with people, but I do not nurse grudges against them because, while I am carrying the grudge, they are out dancing.” In conclusion, let us not hesitate to reach out to correct those who are on the wrong path; in addition, let us make an effort to express our grudges by having honest and open conversations with those who have wounded us or are hurting us so badly.
23rd Sunday, Year A; Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20;
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