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September 10, 2023: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

What are you supposed to do about the bad behavior of the people around you? You know who I’m talking about. That family member, friend, coworker, or acquaintance who is quite immoral. On this front there are two lively options in our culture: bash the person to others (probably online) or pretend everything’s fine. The former damages the person. The latter ignores reality. What to do?

Jesus’ strategy in the Gospel of Matthew is as wise as it is difficult: go directly to the person, and then gradually expand the circle of intervention. Simple, often effective, and hard. But what we often miss is the context of the Lord’s strategy, “If your brother sins against you…” Notice the italicized words. Is the person in a Christian familial bond with you? And was the action in question against you? If so, proceed with the plan. Fine. But how often we fret over the sins of those who either aren’t our spiritual siblings or have done nothing directly to us. This is not an invitation to ignore injustice in the world. Rather, we should build bonds of fraternal love, and carefully discern when and how others’ sins are indeed our concern. Sometimes they are. Other times — frequently, perhaps — they simply are not.

— Father John Muir



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