Readings for Today
When we think about society in general, we probably are more “public” with our information, details, relationships and fights than at any other point in our history. The click of a few buttons and we can say whatever pops into our head. While the ability to be in touch with those far away is a good thing, it is not without its problems.
Social media can be used as a vehicle to attack others without really having to engage in discussion. The problem with this approach is that in a way, it lets us “off the hook” from being meaningfully challenged, or entering into true dialogue. It is much easier to type a few words on a a computer than it is to engage in the art of face to face communication. Even with face to face communication, such as with face to face debate, there is the temptation to talk “at” the other, or to shift the conversation away from the topic at hand.
Nowhere is this type of communication more challenging than when we need to correct the behavior of another. While parents do this all of the time with their children (and probably vice-versa), for many of us confronting the behavior of another is not always easy. In religious life, we talk historically about a “chapter of faults”, but in my experience today confronting each other in a loving and charitable way does not seem to work very often in practice. Perhaps this is because we can find it difficult to hear, and maybe more importantly, to admit that we have faults.
Jesus in today’s gospel helps us by outlining a process for spiritual correction. As a starting point, he suggests the one on one conversation that can at its best preserve dignity and make it more likely that ‘saving face” is a little less of a concern. Indeed, I am reminded of a psychologist who said once, “You have to earn the right to confront.” What was meant was that if the dignity of a relationship did not exist, then the confrontation was better left to someone else.
In offering his pathway for conversion among the members of the Church, Jesus values the power of human relationships. Since when we love we are doing a holy and divine thing, this high concern for preserving the dignity of others is real. It is the necessary foundation upon which everything else can occur. Reaching out for relationships reminds us that true love always seeks relationship.
Maybe today we can examine how willing we are to preserve the human dignity of others, and to enter into true and authentic relationships that are concerned with the needs of the other, and their best interest. This too is an action of God, holy and divine, in whose image and likeness we are created. So as always, the readings are challenging us to make sure what we do comes from who we are: people made in the divine image of God.