Correction & Mending Hurts
The gospels do not gloss over the human failings of the apostles. Jesus corrects and instructs them time and again. James and John, sons of Zebedee, try to stake out privileged positions in Christ’s Kingdom. They were informed this could not be granted. The rest of the twelve let their anger and scorn be known and Jesus had to instruct the whole group. "… whoever wishes to be greatest among you will be your servant." (Mk 10:43)
Another time, Peter suggests he is being big-hearted to forgive injury seven times; Jesus answered "seventy-seven times" – no limitation – so stop counting!
The Last Supper and the farewell words of Jesus are all part of a Love Banquet. But it begins with the washing of the feet – the humble approach called for in winning back to Community one who has offended.
The Lord well knew his Church, his People would have their difficulties getting along with each other. Even Paul and Banabas had a dispute concerning Mark that ended their cooperative ministry.
Corinth seethes with divisions. They pretend to follow particular leaders. And there are outright violations of justice. Paul is outraged that these Christians ignore the directive of Christ to first seek a one-on-one reconciliation, then take two or three members of the Community and try again – and then seek the help of the larger local Community! That early Church was not up to putting Christ’s directives into practice! They preferred Roman magistrates!
Neither then, nor now is it easy to end an injustice or correct a failing to live a Christian Life! To venture into what spiritual writers call "fraternal correction" demands genuine humility and courage! Acting as one’s brother’s keeper can make matters worse, it can deepen the wounds and prolong the separation. On the grand scale schisms and anti-popes have plagued not only Rome, but local churches down the centuries.
The Evangelist Matthew may have been concerned about such wounds coming to his local church and for that reason incoporated Jesus’ warnings and directives. In our day, we need to heed the words of Jesus as we find them in the Discourse on Community for our personal conduct and for our adherence to the Body of Christ, his Church.
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Chicago. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.