Fr. Timothy Radcliffe op gives examples in the Gospel of people who are trapped in their sins. The woman caught in the act of adultery is trapped in her sin. Suzanna shouts out, “I am trapped in this walled garden.” Often, the media traps us in our failures. There is no forgetting in the worldwide web. Failures are there forever.
The poet Patrick Kavanagh, addressing God, asks, “O God, can a man find you when he lives with his face downwards
And his nose in the rubble that was his achievement?”
Jesus implies in today’s Gospel that we have a moral responsibility for each other. To remain indifferent to someone’s moral failure because we are afraid of hurting their feelings is only protecting ourselves. There is a loneliness and helplessness in being trapped in sin. How then do you correct another and yet not Lord it over them?
Jesus proposes a step by step approach: Starting with the local level first – tell the person their fault. If they don’t listen, then go to the next level and take one or two with you who are aware of the behaviour and who also want the good of that person. Finally, go to the community in the Church who care about the person. We all need others to help us. Jesus promises us in the closing lines of today’s Gospel, “Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in their midst.”
And according to Patrick Kavanagh, the gift of God’s forgiveness comes to us as an experience of interior liberation and freedom – “Christ comes in the January flower”
(P. Kavanagh, ‘Advent’). Sr. Mary Moriarty OP