My homily for the 23rd Sunday

23rd Sunday of the Year (a)

‘If your brother does something wrong’. What about sisters? Now when I was growing up we were four brothers and two sisters, and sometimes one of the two did something wrong. So, that line ‘If your brother does something wrong’ can also read, ‘if your sister does something wrong’. I was with my niece yesterday and told her of the time her mother, my sister, when still a child, and my parents were out, drank a whole bottle of sherry! She liked the sweet taste you see; and she saw adults drinking it and thought “yes, I’d like to be merry too”. Then she was taken to hospital. I don’t think she’s touched sherry ever since.

If your brother of sister does something wrong”. It’s not really a question of ‘if’ they do something wrong. You can be sure they will. It’s more a question of when. In the Gospel Jesus tells us; “if your brother/sister does something wrong, go and have it out with them alone”. Sound advice; it means we can clear up the problem straight away.

Children argue and fight. At least we did in our family. I notice now when I go to visit my sister and I watch my nieces and nephew: when they fall out, one will go to the mother and tell her that the other one won’t let them play with them; or that they hit them. They don’t tell the other child. But you wouldn’t expect children to talk through a problem; you wouldn’t expect to hear; “let’s talk this through man to man”. No, children haven’t learnt the art of talking things through: they either cry, or argue, or fight or all three.

As adults we can have just as many difficulties with others. But, unlike children, we’ve learnt to hide our hurts. There is an old expression in english: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. But I don’t think that’s true; words can hurt us far more than sticks and stones. However, as adults we learn to pretend, to cover up, so that the other person doesn’t know they’ve hurt us. But the problem with this is that hurts can lead to divisions. How many families are divided simply because no has said sorry.

We can’t help annoying each other at times or falling out. Even in the best of families and among the best of friends there will be arguments. But don’t let these destroy a relationship. If we don’t want this to happen then, as Christ taught, “if your brother does something wrong go and have it out with him alone.” And be ready to say “sorry”.

Often this small word can be the most important in any relationship. Yet it can also be the hardest to say. And the more a person hurts you, the harder it is to say it. But we must learn to say sorry and to say it often. Say it before its too late; before a division takes firm hold. Be prepared to say sorry often and you will always have a united family and keep your friends close. And if the hurt is so painful that you say I can never say sorry, then pray for the grace to say that important word, so that you may enjoy that friendship again, as Christ wants you to. We were not meant to be divided. Division is a sin. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a grace and one we should always pray for.

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