Ezekiel in today’s first reading encourages us to confront any kind of wickedness or wrong doing in communal life and to help us to repent and change our ways of behaviour. This applies very much to members living a community life as we are sometimes prone to be nice to one another rather than to be honest and speak a word of truth which may help with further communication.
The message of Psalm 94 is that communication is the key – but listening is the tool. The quality of listening deeply and of being listened to is freeing, so we are invited to become an expert at listening attentively to each individual. Listening means that we are willing to put aside our immediate needs, emotions, plans, opinions, and our ego, and give attention to the other.
St. Paul strongly advises us to remember that love is the one thing that cannot hurt our neighbour. With the light of awareness, we can become enlightened, to allowing the Spirit of graciousness and generosity to be expressed in what we think and do and say. Look then at each relationship as a way of coming to be with God.
“I enter Community to be happy but I stay in community to make others happy”. (Jean Vanier) How I am with others is exactly how I am with myself, so the degree I forgive myself is the degree I forgive others. Love is always forgiving. True love is listening to the voice within.
When I’m tolerant and forgiving, I enable others to take risks, make mistakes and begin again. Forgiveness frees because we are here for healing and freeing, not for binding and oppressing others.
Matthew, in today’s Gospel, is very clear on how to handle conflict in community. Self-knowledge is necessary. What is my style of facing conflict? Do I clam up? Allow conflict to build up? Or do I blow up? Do I just want to be nice and not rock the boat? Disagreements can bring us together or drive us apart. Choosing to be happy in relationships rather than right.
It is possible to accept the other person even while disapproving of what she does. It is the difference between one’s attitude towards the person and one’s attitude towards a behaviour. I can at one and the same time help the other person to feel accepted and approved, while challenging the unacceptable behaviour. We all benefit from someone stirring us up!
What we need most is sincere love. What we need least is unloving criticism. Respect, understanding and love are needed – remembering the end of today’s Gospel: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I shall be there with them”. (Mt.18:20)
”Come, Lord Jesus, come.”
1. What is my style of handling conflict?
2. Is there a sulking child from early childhood within, whenever I cannot face conflict or difficulties?
Sr. Dympna Travers OP