Letter from Fr. Keith (September 5)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

“The good old days!”  We often look back on times gone by with fondness and nostalgia. Truth be recognized and told, every age in the history of the world, every era in our personal lives is a mixture of good and bad, of ups and downs, of things being done right and others, leaving ample room for improvement.

It’s the same when we look at Christian history. In this Sunday’s gospel (Mt. 15:18-20), Jesus spoke to his disciples, “If your brother or sister sins against you...” By the very fact he felt the need to say what he does, Jesus recognizes the need for his followers to have a blueprint for reconciling with each other.

There are hints of dissension in other gospel stories. Remember James and John asking Jesus for special status; then the other disciples getting more than annoyed with them—maybe because they were thinking so competitively; maybe, too, out of concern they might get ahead of them (see Mk. 10:35-41).

If your brother or sister sins against you ... In other words: any word or deed done intentionally to disregard us or to do us harm.

He lists steps designed to respond to the resulting rift. First, attempt to deal with the situation directly. It takes courage. At the same time, it’s essential. If that gets you nowhere, involve others, who have a sincere desire to be of aid. If that doesn’t help you may have to get some formal assistance: a go-between, an arbitrator.

Jesus then concludes with what we may be, at first, a bit surprised to hear from him. It might not work, all your best efforts, and after all to be said and done has been said and done, with great regret, we may need to step away. Some reconciliations will happen only in the life to come.

Where two or three are gathered, for all kinds of reasons, there is potential for discord. How does Jesus tell us to respond?

Do everything we can—everything for which we can be responsible—to be reconciled is his gist. Bend over backwards. Don’t get caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong or who must apologize to whom and on and on—all the diversions to which we might resort to ease the hurt and save face. It all hinges on the grace of God and the human desire to mend brokenness and start afresh. If it doesn’t work, leave it to the grace of God, and walk away, with sadness, but in peace.

Two points to bring our reflection on the gospel to a close.  First: the implied advice Jesus would give from all of this. Avoid sinning against another—any thought word or deed intended to do someone harm in any way. Don’t do it. Then, those steps in dealing with the fallout won’t be necessary.

Second: The one with whom we can’t make amends, let such a one be to you, says Jesus, as a Gentile and a tax collector. Careful we don’t misinterpret that as an excuse to bad-mouth and belittle. How did Jesus treat Gentile and tax collector? Well, he died for them.

Jesus knew he wasn’t establishing a flawless community. He saw in them, though, and in us, the potential to apply his example, his teaching to the ebb and flow of our lives. That, he knew, would be for our own true and lasting good, and would ripple out to nurture the seed of salvation in our world.

This week, our thoughts and prayers are especially focused on everyone involved in our educational system as a new school year begins. The threat of COVID-19 is a worry for all.

The diocese, in consultation with the Chief Public Health Office, has just released a protocol for catechetics this coming year in view of the pandemic. We will soon be meeting to make decisions for a bit-later-than-usual start to our 2020-2021 parish program.

Monday is Labour Day. We are reminded of the dignity of human work and of those called upon to perform it. Honest work is one of the important ways we participate in and extend the creative and transforming work of God. Labour Day calls us to gratitude for the countless tasks performed for our benefit by so many. The holiday reminds us, too, of those who struggle in unjust working conditions and of those who are unemployed. We share, also, in the gratitude of those whose work is their joy, and who are grateful for the contribution they are able to make to the common good by the jobs that occupy so much of their time.

I plan to be off Monday through Friday this week. Bishop Richard will preside at the weekday Masses.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith


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