Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020 - Fr. Pete Iorio
XXIII Domingo del Tiempo Ordinario 2020 - Padre Pedro Iorio

Septiembre 5, 2020 - 7:00 PM
September 6, 2020 - 11:00 AM

Grabación de Audio

Audio Recording

Does anyone have any complaints? Or grievances? It is a part of our human nature. To be honest, one of the things as pastor that I do not like to get are complaint letters. Over 27 years, they have ranged over the years from simple suggestions to downright attacks and judgments on my character. “You are a lazy priest.” As I personally reflect on how I deal with complaint letters now as to years ago, I can say that I have matured. And that is a good thing. Today, I receive complaint letters as opportunities for the Christian community, including myself, to grow.

Years ago, I would react negatively and defensively because my ego was hurt. When my first pastor taught me never to even read unsigned letters because the writer lacks Christian charity because they do not even make themselves known, I listened, but I still felt bad.

When I hear in society and even in the church community: It is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission, that really pushes my buttons. Why? Because it undermines the very foundation of trust. To do something willfully against the agreed upon laws or procedures just because asking for permission is a challenging or longer process puts self interest ahead of family or community relationships. Broken trust is not always easy to restore in a marriage or in a family or in the community.

As I have grown in my relationship with God, I know that at the core of my being, I am immensely loved. This is who I am, God’s beloved. This is who you are as well, made in the image and likeness of God. My false self or projected self that the world sees is that part of me that gets offended…say when someone makes a criticism. As I see myself growing in humility and less prideful, I am more aware of who God made me to be in love which dies to self and forgives without end. So now when critical letters or emails come to me, I try to be grateful that someone cares enough to want to help the community. I engage them in dialog by phone, in person if appropriate, or by letter or email. I pray (sometimes out loud and sometimes to myself) that we are gathered in the name of Jesus, and He is in our midst and guides us to reconciliation and better understanding and changes that need to be made.

The Gospel this Sunday presents the theme traditionally called “fraternal correction” within the community of believers: that is, how I must correct another sister or brother Christian when s/he does what is not good. Jesus teaches us that, should my Christian brother/sister commit a sin against me, offend me, I must be charitable toward him/her and, first of all, speak with him personally, explain what was said or done that was wrong. But, what if the person doesn’t listen to me? Jesus proposes a progressive intervention that follows the principle of subsidiarity which means that adjudication of a matter should have preference for the most local level : first, return and speak to him with two or three other people, so he may be more aware of his error; if, despite this, he does not accept the admonition, the community must be told; and should he also refuse to listen to the community, he must be made aware of the rift and estrangement that he himself has caused, weakening the communion with his brothers in the faith.

Some have a tendency to go straight to “Father” with a complaint. You will find that I do not micromanage this parish. I have been burned by doing that. I listen and direct or take the issue to the person in charge whether it be in the office or pertaining to liturgy, or communication. Key to this Gospel teaching of Jesus is building up the Kingdom which includes all the members.

It is important above all to prevent any gossip in the community — this is the first thing, this must be avoided. “Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (v. 15). The approach is one of sensitivity, prudence, humility, attention towards the one who committed a fault, to avoid wounding or killing the brother with words. Because, you know, words too can kill! When I speak, when I make an unfair criticism, when I “rip apart” a brother with my tongue, this is killing another person’s reputation! Sadly social media has become a forum where words kill too. Let us pay attention to this. At the same time, the discretion of speaking to the person alone is to avoid needlessly humiliating the sinner. It is discussed between the two, no one is aware of it and then it’s over. This requirement also takes into account the consequent series of interventions calling for the involvement of a few witnesses and then actually of the community. This helps us to free ourselves from anger or resentment which only causes harm: that bitterness of heart which brings anger and resentment, and which leads us to insult and aggression. It’s terrible to see an insult or taunt come forth from the mouth of a Christian. It is ugly. I hope you understand. Do not insult! To insult is not Christian.

Actually, before God we are all sinners and in need of forgiveness. The same awareness that enables me to recognize the fault of another, even before that, reminds me that I have likewise made mistakes and I am often wrong. I myself need to be open to receive fraternal correction. May the Holy Spirit give us the guidance and the strength to put this challenging Gospel set of practices into action at home, in our families and in our communities.