Gospel: Mt 18:15-20
If your brother has sinned against you, go and point out the fault to him, when the two of you are alone; and if he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he doesn’t listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that the case may be decided by the evidence of two or three witnesses. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembled Church. But if he does not listen to the Church, then regard him as a pagan, or a tax collector. I say to you: whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound; and whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound. In like manner, I say to you, if, on earth, two of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by my heavenly Father for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there, among them.”
In the community of believers we are not to tolerate divisions or discords because it is a contradiction to the nature of being Church, that is, communion. The healing process is of vital importance and should never be deferred or delayed. Excommunication or expulsion should be a last resort.
A very useful and practical way to preserve harmony within the Christian community is fraternal correction. In reality, however, this is easier said than done. Because we are afraid that it will worsen the situation we choose to talk about it with other people. Other times our pride holds us back from reconciling with our enemies. Jesus teaches us how to restore harmony in the community. The offended party has to take the initiative to go privately to the offender and discuss the matter. Only if the first step fails that a third party is consulted – first another person, then the Church community.
This gospel text about the process of reconciliation that Jesus suggests to be adopted by every Christian community is reflective of the practice of the Early Church. This is a structured way of dealing with conflicts and controversies. It represents the Early Christians’ interpretation of Jesus’ teaching on the readiness to forgive and testify to the God of mercy and compassion.