Twenty –third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gemma cried out, “Ellie, that’s not fair.” Ellie stomped right past her. I pleaded with the girls, “Please quit fighting and apologize. As twins, you are blessed to have each other; you have a friend for life—but only if you make peace.” Silence. Having no idea of what happened, I called upon their brother, Freddy, to give witness. Unfortunately, he shrugged his shoulders and mumbled, “I don’t know.” Finally, I remembered how my dear friend instructs her grandchildren to sit side by side on the sofa when squabbling: “Now, stay there and hold hands until you stop fighting and can be friends again.” Sure enough, within minutes Gemma and Ellie were giggling. Soon they apologized, were reconciled and went off playing.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus demands rigorous peace making of His disciples, with explicit instructions on confronting an offending party in order to bring him or her back into relationship with the community. Though difficult, we are not alone when commanded to participate in Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation, as He desires unity among the baptized.
Our liturgy requires reconciliation before approaching the table of the Lord. We stretch out our hands and pray, “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We greet one another with a sign of peace—reconciled with one another through the Spirit—before receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
Perhaps, by forcing the girls to hold hands, the pulsating connection unleashed grace—God’s goodness—within them. Rev. Richard Rohr wrote on the power of forgiveness: “When we forgive, we choose the goodness of the other over their faults, we experience God’s goodness flowing through ourselves, and we also experience our own capacity for goodness in a way that almost surprises us.”
When my husband and I are discussing a difficult topic or attempting to work through an offense, I have discovered if I but take his hand, tenderness toward him arises within me. By holding hands, the Spirit aids our reconciliation, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
As parents and grandparents, we name grace—God’s reconciling presence—each time our children witness us laboring through our differences with prayer, respectful discussion, and a warm touch. We name grace each time we meet our children eye to eye, hold their hands gently, and ask their forgiveness after having caused injury through an unkind word or action.
Just imagine if we handled all differences by connecting hands and invoking God’s presence. What if the leaders of Israel and Palestine clasped hands while working out a peace accord? What if men and women of different races, ethnicity, and religions grasped hands while understanding our commonalities? What if all family members held hands, in a most tender way, while working out conflict?
There is nothing more romantic than witnessing an elderly couple holding hands, more powerful than observing two conflicting sides shaking hands, more endearing than spying twin sisters joyfully swinging hands while playing. When two or three are gathered in His name, all things are possible. Now, that’s good news!
How will you invoke the Spirit during the next conflict in your home?
How are you being called to the ministry of reconciliation in your community?
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.