There was a story about a little girl. A lady I know, I will call her Agnes. She is a loving mother and grandmother. She has a friend who has been alienated from some of her family for a long time. Agnes’ own family are quite close. Seeing the strife in her friend’s family, Agnes made a decision hoping that alienation and separation would never be part of her own family. In addition to praying for her family, which she always did, she approached one of her adult grandchildren who was highly respected by other family members. Agnes asked him to be the mediator for any problems that might arise in the future. If there ever was a chance people would become alienated from each other, or there were to be any fighting or hatred among the family members, he would step in. Agnes went so far as to instruct him in what to say, “Tell them I put you in charge of keeping the family together and to straighten things out. You are in charge.” It was a heavy responsibility for him to accept, but because he loved his grandmother, he promised to do what she asked. This grandmother, who is dearly loved and respect-ed by her family is also very wise. It gave her peace, knowing that when she had passed on, someone will be watching out for the family and helping to keep them together. She took the burden off of her grandson, so that if he does try to deal with some sensitive family issues, he won’t be rejected for sticking his nose in someone else’s business. He can say, Grandma left me in charge of helping to keep our family united.
My dear sisters and brothers in Christ, my faith and spiritual family… Jesus is very wise as well. He is telling his followers that same thing in today’s gospel: “I want you to be in charge of straightening things out when there are problems and disagreements and fights and when people make up their own rules that lead my followers into separa-tion and disunity.”
As we begin this new year and as our young people once again begin studying their faith, I invite, I challenge and I encourage each of us to renew our willingness to seek the Lord where He may be found. I invite each of us as we gather here at church and as you gather together in your fam-ilies, to recollect on the fact that, ‘We, you and I and the rest of the Church, who have been put in charge have done a far from perfect job in this regard with so much division among Christ’s followers. Jesus taught us that before we go around correcting others we should first look at ourselves. When we do that , we will begin to experience and come to a deep-er understanding that behind ever kind of correction, behind ever type of critique, we must find love. Love is the motiva-tion behind any form of fraternal correction. Paul makes that clear in our second reading: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” We must not go around looking for faults, or finding fault with people because we enjoy it… we are called to do so because we love them and we would hate to see them doing things that will cause themselves harm, either spiritually or physically. Yet, we know that often our words of wisdom or encouragement fall on deaf ears.
This week, before we dare to offer advice or criti-cism to another, let us pray for the right words and then if we are told to mind our own business, we should keep on praying for them. As St, James exhorts us, “whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his or her soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”