First off, I must admit I am a human being and part of my humanity is that I am subject to making mistakes. I also have problems from time-to-time. Not only am I subject to making mistakes and having problems, but sometimes I am blind to my mistakes and problems. As much as I do not like it, as much as it makes me feel uncomfortable, sometimes I need someone to point out my mistakes or problems, drawing my attention to them. Not only to be made aware of them, but so that I can do whatever is possible to fix them. For if I do not fix my mistake or problem, whether I know it or not, my mistake or problem could end up costing me my life.
Drawing attention to mistakes or problems, being confronted with the need for and hope of changing to save one’s life, is the theme of our Scriptures today. The focus is not on me being confronted about my mistake or problem. No, the focus today is the opposite. It is on me being aware of someone else’s mistake or problem and confronting them about it. In our Scriptures today, we are told that if we do not confront someone about their mistake or problem, the person who made the mistake will die, and we will be held responsible for their death because we did not say anything. We did not confront them or try to influence them to change their behavior.
Drawing attention to another’s mistakes or problems and trying to get them to change their behavior at times can be fun, particularly, when the mistake or problem it is something small. I often think of how siblings nitpick each other, driving their parents insane.
Drawing attention to another’s mistakes or problems or confronting them with hope that they will change can also be difficult, especially when it involves a bigger issue. Often, the difficulty with confronting is not about bringing up the issue to the person but it is in how is he or she is going to respond when confronted. As difficult as it can be, confrontation may be necessary from time to time.
In our Scriptures today, Jesus gives a tip on how to confront a person. Jesus recommends first to go speak to the individual with the problem. If that does not work, bring one or two witnesses, and if that does not work, bring the church. And still this might not work; then treat them as you would treat a Gentile or tax collector. In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time, Gentiles and tax collectors were not treated well. Jesus, however, treated Gentiles and tax collectors with love and respect. And often, Jesus’ treatment of them led the Gentiles and tax collectors to have a change of heart and conversion.
Perhaps the same holds true for us in confronting people with mistakes and problems. Often times we may question of what good it is to confront, when they will not listen to me? Often times our confronting does not seem to work. Perhaps it is not so much about what we say that leads to the change but how we treat them and love them.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar of the Downtown Dayton Catholic parishes, which includes Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.