29th Week in Ordinary Time
“Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way…” [Luke 12:58]
One of the great challenges of the Catholic life is that God is not only interested in our relationship with him, he is also interested in our relationship with others. This is in fact so important that Jesus tells us at the end of the Our Father that “if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Today’s gospel is another example of God’s interest in our human interactions. Jesus asks us to settle our issues with each other before they become too serious. Addressing conflicts with others can be one of the most challenging aspects of human relationship. Even so, the possibility of rich and deep human relationship will require that we learn this skill.
The first step in dealing with a conflict is hidden within this text, but made more explicit in Matthew 18:15 where Jesus says: “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” The first step in addressing conflict is actually sitting down person to person and addressing the issue, before the issue is discussed with anyone else. If we were a little better at this, many conflicts could be resolved before they turned nasty.
Another key is to recognise the distinction between intention, action and perception. That is the difference between a person’s actions that may have caused offence, what they actually intended, and how their actions where perceived by those that may have been offended. To know what another person intended requires honest and open dialogue – it cannot be assumed. Many conflicts begin because an evil intention is assumed, and never clarified. When we discuss the matter, we often find that the action that caused offence was not intended in the way that it was perceived by others.
So if we’re going to live out our Catholic faith, we must settle our conflicts with each other. Jesus calls us to an open, respectful discussion about offence that enable the clarification of intention and perception, but that has reconciliation as its goal. Is there someone you currently have a grievance with? Is it time to invite them into a conversation that might lead to reconciliation?
By Peter Pellicaan
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