gospel reflection

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

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One of the greatest questions to come out of the scriptures is Am I my brother’s keeper?  This is the famous question asked by Cain in the book of Genesis (4:9). Our Gospel this weekend answers this question with an unequivocal ‘yes’.  We are called to love our neighbour’s as ourselves, but what does that mean?          What kind of love does Jesus call us to exhibit? Not eros, and not even                    exactly philos (brother and sisterly love), but caritas or agape — the self-emptying, sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross. We must have charity in our hearts for our fellow men and women, especially when it comes to the path of     salvation. That charity may, at times, extend to a duty of correction.

Jesus expands this responsibility to all within the body of Christ, however He still maintains the limits seen in our first reading this weekend from the prophet Ezekiel. Jesus provides a more formal process for this, one that has been followed in one form or another in Christian communities for two millenia. First we ought to enlighten an offender privately; if that doesn’t work, ask two or three others to     intervene; failing that, let the whole Church decide whether a brother or sister should be corrected. If so, and our friend remains unrepentant, then everyone has done what they can, and the rest needs to be left to God. Jesus promises elsewhere that the Holy Spirit will work through the Church if two or more are gathered in His name.

Its good to remember that Jesus has given us all significant office in the Church by the power of our baptism. The question for many of us is whether we use our gifts by demonstrating love of neighbour — the caritas that puts their needs ahead of our own. After all, this doesn’t just apply to issues of correcting sin, but also of helping our brothers and sisters along the road to salvation.

Fr John

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