Be united in prayer because Christ is in the midst of us

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September 6, 2020 –  23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/090620.cfm)

Homily

Who wants to be corrected? Who wants to be criticized? Being with our friends, with our family or with a community, we cannot really avoid conflicts and tensions. However, a particular difficult situation can be more problematic when we become unwelcoming to corrections and to criticism.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel offers us practical steps to overcome such situations in order to arrive in a mature way of attaining peace and reconciliation.

Let us also bear in mind that because of the biases and discriminations that have been built up in us, we can become vicious when we are confronted by others because of our faults. That’s why, Jesus told us how to approach gently a person when we confront them of their faults or when we are being confronted. Yet, knowing that we can exercise forms of denial and refusal to admit our mistakes, then, Jesus affirms the need of the participation of the community. The Lord affirms this as he told us, “for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Before I proceed deeper into the participation of the community, I would like to invite you that we look first and remind ourselves of our tendency to deny and refuse to be confronted and criticized of our sins and failures.

Thus, I would like to share with you the two forms of denial that may become our attitude when confronted by others.

First, when confronted, we might tend to overemphasize the faults of others yet; there will be no acknowledgement of our personal defects and sinfulness. This overemphasis of the faults of others is a mere cover up of one’s skeletons hidden in the closet. It is a way of taking revenge cruelly.

Second, when confronted, we could display an air of self-righteousness and arrogance in our hearts; claiming that we are always right and good and never committed any mistake. As a result, we could become violent to our critics and would even seek to destroy them. This kind of attitude boasts oneself of his or her good image but hungry of recognition and praise from people around him or her.

Moreover, there is actually wisdom and goodness in criticism in itself and by being confronted by others. This is how others, friends, family members and our community play a big role  in conversion and transformation.

Nevertheless, we also remind ourselves also of these two kinds of criticism. There is a constructive criticism and destructive criticism.

A constructive criticism seeks the good of my brother and sister. In this criticism, we do not seek to ridicule the person but to help the person to grow and learn from mistakes and failures. It gives both positive and negative feedbacks. This is done with honesty and sincerity. St Paul in his letter to the Romans reminded us too to express our love for one another. Indeed, in this way we express it concretely because this seeks the good of the others. We fulfill, then, the law, because it does no evil to our neighbor, but goodness and love.

This is basically what Jesus offers us in the Gospel today.

Jesus offers us to do it intimately and confront the person personally. If this will not work, then, Jesus suggests to bring a common friend to serve as a mediator. Yet, if the two will not work and the person continues to refuse, then we seek the judgment of the community or of the Church.

On the other hand, what we avoid and what Jesus does not want to happen is when we choose the destructive criticism, which is hateful because it desires damage to my brother and sister. It is destructive because it puts down and humiliates the person and has no desire to help the person to grow and to learn. Destructive criticism is a mere accusation that is filled with bitterness and hate.

Thus, this is done with evil intent. It is usually done when we talk behind the person in initiating, perpetrating and joining others to destroy the image of a person, like in gossiping.

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Jesus does not want us to be that bitter and hateful accuser of our brothers and sisters but rather disciples of him who are humble enough to recognize our wrongdoings, and courageous enough to speak what is unjust and oppressive around us. Jesus desires that each of us becomes free by being able to recognize our sins so that transformation of hearts will be possible. It is in this way that we become a help to one another, so that as parents, leaders, mentors and authority figures, we will not be leading others blindly but with humility and willingness to be corrected, affirmed and challenged.

This is where we can find the need of the participation of the community, and that is to be united in prayer. To be united in prayer is to become discerning both in our words and actions. To be united in prayer also practically suggests that we are in a community, and we are a community. When we become united in prayer, then, we allow the Lord to be present in us.

Thus, to be able to truly confront the sins and failures present in our community, we are called also that we unite in prayer. This also include that we bring, in the spirit of prayer, our effort to confront and correct one another so that we will grow and become the persons God wants us to be.

To be united in prayer is not just about asking God’s favor to grant our petitions. To be united in prayer then, is to pray in the name of Jesus and that is according to the mind, heart and will of the Lord.

To be united in prayer also means to change our hearts and minds according to the will of God and not changing God’s mind and heart according to our own desires. As a community, this will help us to be able to trust in God and to give our hearts to God so that we can grow according to God’s desire for us. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR

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