Twenty-third Ordinary Sunday
I am my brother’s keeper
Points to note
Last week, we dealt with how Jesus reacted to Peter who made a mistake. This Sunday, we deal with a central theme in our everyday life: What do we do when someone else makes a mistake?
Care must be taken to ensure that the discussion does not centre on the mistake that the someone else did, but rather on our reaction to that mistake. Some children are notorious as ‘tell-tales’ and intervention is often required to keep the discussion on track.
Acclamation before the Gospel
Your word is truth, O Lord,
consecrate us in the truth.
This passage takes place after the Transfiguration, and Jesus was discussing with his disciples about the Church.
The Lord be with you.
All: And also with your spirit.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All: Glory to you O Lord
(Mt 18: 15-20)
Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, he has won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; or if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a leper or a tax collector.
“I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you considered loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.
“I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord
Have you heard of the saying ‘I am not my brother’s keeper’? It was Cain’s response when God asked him where Abel was (Gn 4:9). What kind of person was Cain? He murdered his brother, Abel. You may wish to go through the story of why Cain killed Abel - because Cain got jealous when God liked Abel’s sacrifice more than Cain’s. Discuss the type of person who would use the saying - someone who is afraid or not bothered about his brother. Explain that ‘brother’ in this context, does not just refer to a member of the family, but to any member of the community.
Have you ever seen your brother or sister in the family done something wrong? Careful here, we do not want a long diatribe of dirty linen being washed in public!! Damper it down if necessary and move on. Note that this does not refer to wrongdoing done by the child, but by others
Point out that even if it were a wrongdoing where no one gets hurt, Mom and Dad would still be angry. Discuss what the child would do if Mom and Dad still haven't found out. Would they tell at the first instance, or would they remonstrate with the wrongful sibling? If the sibling were still unrepentant, would the child then inform the parents? I find that in many circumstances, there is no right and wrong answer to this question. Even for us as adults, or maybe, especially for us as adults (would you turn in your own child if he/she commits a crime? A small crime? A big crime?). So, don’t be dogmatic with the answer.
If there is time, expand the discussion to brothers and sisters in the community.
Explain to the children that as the Church is one family, it also has a head like our parents at home. As head of the Church, God would not like it if somebody in the family sins. As a member of the family, we have a responsibility to do for a fellow member of our community what we should do for our sibling at home who has done any wrongdoing.