23rd Sunday (Note & Bulletin)

A few years ago at Camp Ekon one of our camp counselors had a difficult time finding her place within the staff community. She had missed a couple of days during “Work Week,” when the staff mow the lawn, rake the leaves, move fallen trees and paint different buildings getting the site ready for the arrival of campers. She was then assigned as one of the trip leaders for the first two weeks of camp, meaning she would be off-site. When she returned, she went away for a week on a special family vacation to Alaska. Finally, in Week 4, she was “present for duty,” ready for “regular” counseling duties. It became clear that she didn’t seem to easily fit in, that she wasn’t as welcomed as the others. We talked to her and others about it. In the end, however, the struggle to feel at home in the community never seemed to get better. The next year, she decided not to apply. Her experience left me feeling disappointed in the staff community and myself. It was a real moment of failure, of sinfulness, for the Ekon Community. In this week’s Gospel, the Lord outlines for us, not only how to correct another person, but points to the central importance each person is, be it individually or within a community.

I find it moving to see how Jesus describes a process of correcting a person. If I think someone has done something wrong, it is tempting to sort of “go after them,” to let them know what they’ve done and why it was wrong. Christ, however, lays out for us a different way. He speaks of dealing with the problem privately; if that doesn’t work, to bring another person to assist you; and, if that doesn’t work, to bring it to the community as a last resort. The Lord seems to want the person in the wrong to still be treated with gentleness, with love and with compassion. While we may be attracted to this teaching, we also know that it can be “easier said than done.” The key to living and acting in such a gentle, loving and compassionate manner is to be found in the reading from Paul.

Saint Paul reminds us of Jesus’ command that we are to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Again, when we hear this teaching we may think this is simple, clear and doable. And yet, on reflection, the love of our neighbour is based on how we each love ourselves. This is not so easy. Those times when I feel most frustrated and disappointed with myself, or that I wish I were different are the same times when I feel most judgmental and critical of others. If I do not love myself, how can I love another? Throughout the Gospel, Christ leaves no doubt as to how we are loved by God. If we sin, we are still fully loved. If we turn away from him, we are still fully loved. If we do not seem to understand what the Lord is saying and doing, we are still fully loved. If our generosity is limited, we are still fully loved. There are many times I wish I were different. I wish I weren’t such a procrastinator; I wish I were more forgiving; I wish I were more skilled; I wish I were never lazy. The list could go on. But what is most important is that at those exact moments in which I may feel that I’ve “dropped the ball” yet again, in my heart there is the truth that gently speaks “I am still fully loved.” We all want a community and church that welcomes all, that is forgiving and that loves. For us to live and be the person and community we feel ourselves to be, we must look to our hearts to know our foundation – and that foundation is the Father’s love.

God bless and take care!
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