September 10 – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

I remember when I was 12 years old, my dad turned 50 and my oldest sister decided to follow a rule that I believe she created: namely that every 50-year-old man needs a dog! Even though it was a gift for my dad, I had wanted a dog for a long time so you can imagine my joyful reaction. We named her Tippy, and she was a wonderful dog. 

It didn’t take me and the rest of the family too long to find out that the dog was a wonderful scapegoat.  I’m sure you have heard the line, “the dog ate my homework.”  Well for me it was perfect. Tippy made all the dishes dirty, Tippy made the room messy, and Tippy somehow left the toilet seat up! Tippy, as a joke, gave way for me to run away from any responsibility for my actions, and remove any need I had for correction.   

This idea of running away from responsibility and correction isn’t new. This blame game isn’t new, and in fact we see this in the story of Adam and Eve after the Fall. Eve blames the serpent, and Adam blames God!  

What is the Lord asking of us? Our Sunday readings point to the need for and importance of fraternal correction: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘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’” (Mt 18:15). We need to be willing to correct each other out of love. The Gospel gives us concrete steps by starting fraternal correction in private, then bringing it up with another person, and if that doesn’t work finally bringing it to the Church.   

To give fraternal correction is hard, especially with the conflict that it brings to light.  So where do we start? How do we grow in one of the most important aspects of our faith? I believe that we need to first begin by being open to correction ourselves. Let’s not jump to excuses and blame but accept in humility that we are not perfect, and that we need to change to grow closer to Christ and one another! Once we realize our own brokenness and need for correction, we are more likely to help our brothers and sisters- not out of judgment, but out of understanding and mercy in order to draw them to the Lord.  (And if that’s too hard, I guess you can always just get a dog!) 

Father Michael