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Homily for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Wouldn’t true love involve intervening in a sensitive way?

By Bishop Larry Silva
September 10, 2017

Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A – September 9/10, 2017
[St. Joseph Church, Makawao (Confirmation); Our Lady, Queen of Angels Church, Kula (Dedication of new altar)]

When I asked some young people recently what are the biggest challenges they have to deal with, one of the things they mentioned was bullying.  Sometimes this is face-to-face, sometimes behind one’s back, and sometimes on the internet.  The question I have is:  If you are not the one doing the bullying or the one being bullied, does the bullying concern you?  I think our Scriptures today challenge us to say that we all need to be concerned about this and become involved with it.  If I know bullying is hurtful and wrong, what can I do about it?  Can I – perhaps with the help of like-minded friends – comfort and support the person being bullied?  Or can I even approach the person who is bullying and help him or her realize how hurtful and destructive this behavior is?  Teen suicides are a real problem these days, and I cannot help but wonder if that fact is a consequence of the increase in bullying?  We might say, “It’s none of my business!”  But if we do, have we heard God’s admonition, given through the prophet Ezekiel, that we will be held accountable if we see someone sinning and say nothing about it?  Or do we heed St. Paul’s admonition that we owe the debt of loving one another?

If I see a married couple who are friends going down the wrong path and constantly tearing at each other, wouldn’t true love involve intervening in a sensitive way to point out their fault so that it does not end up in the tragedy of divorce for themselves and their children?  Of course, if we point out a problem to them, they might be upset with us and lash out at us.  But is it really loving to just let them go down the primrose path that ultimately leads to misery, rather than have the courage to sensitively confront them with the hope that they will change their ways?

Very often these days we Christians and Catholics are called upon to critique our culture.  We see that human life in all its stages from conception to natural death is no longer held sacred.  Or we see people drifting away from faith in God and substituting it with faith in oneself.  Or we glorify victims so that it is politically incorrect to criticize anything that certain groups do.  Or we distance ourselves from the poor, from the persecuted, and from the hopeless, going our own merry ways while keeping the suffering of our brothers and sisters distant from our consciousness.  We know that if we critique these trends, we will have to suffer ourselves, because others may think us narrow-minded and judgmental.  Yet if we do not engage these issues, are we not ignoring the Lord Jesus’ admonition that we engage in fraternal correction, and that we will be held accountable if we do not do so?

Of course Jesus reminds us that in going about this fraternal correction, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it, a righteous way and a self-righteous.  Another’s faults are not to be broadcasted first in gossip, but we should have the courage to approach someone directly with our concern.  That is the most respectful thing to do.  Then, if that does not work, then seek reinforcements from one or two others, but, again, people who will approach with love and humility, not with self-righteousness.  And if that does not work, then one might consider taking the matter up to the Church, to the body of believers.  And if that does not work, then at least come together to pray for the person; because where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, there he is in the midst of them, and he will hear their prayers.

We cannot do this on our own without becoming self-righteous and proud, but we need not do it on our own, because we have the gift of the Holy Spirit who can guide us with wisdom and understanding, with fortitude and fear of the Lord.  That gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us freely, especially in the sacrament of Confirmation, so that we may not shy away from uncomfortable topics or conversations, but may be more committed to our own conversion and to calling others to conversion in Christ.  Moreover, we come here every week to be nurtured and honed by the Word of God and to encounter the risen Christ on this altar of sacrificial love.  It is here that we are reminded that God loved us so much, even in our sinfulness, that he wanted to become one of us to lure us away from sin.  And it is in this sacrifice of the cross and resurrection that we find the courage to go forth from here and do the hard and sometimes dangerous work of bringing healing to the lives of others and to the world in which we love.  That is the debt of love we owe.  That is the debt we are called to pay until it is fully paid in full when Christ comes again in all his glory.