Many More Bridges Need To Be Built

    A couple was constantly quarrelling for the flimsiest of reasons. Once, after a heated argument with his wife, the man shouted, "Why can't we live peacefully like our two dogs who never fight?" "You are right, they don't," said his wife and added, "but bind them together as we're bound, and see what happens!" When two or three individuals are bound – as in matrimony or in family – conflicts inevitably arise.

    Today's liturgical readings instruct us about conflict-esolution. Like the husband and wife perpetually on the warpath, it's not easy to live in family and community. A bachelor friend once remarked, "It's better to be alone than in the best of company!" But, Jesus says, "If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my Name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt 18:20). Jesus stresses community indicated by the use of two or three.

    Having an argument with someone we love is not unusual. We all experience rifts of various degrees with family and friends. There are times when we all act insensitively and say hurtful things. The question is how we deal with those arguments and heal those rifts.

    In today's Gospel, Jesus tells four steps method of how to deal with and finally mend a broken relationship within the Christian fellowship. Those four steps are: Confrontation, Negotiation, Adjudication and Excommunication (leave him alone).

One psychologist gives five steps to mend a broken relationship:

  1. Wait to talk. Give time for both of you to calm down. If one side is still "hot," the other's apology will only escalate the argument.
  2. Give up the idea of being right. Remember that each of you believes that you are right and the other is in the wrong. Focus instead on each other's feelings.
  3. Verbalize your understanding of how the other person feels: "I understand that you are hurt because…" And then, ask if you are correct.
  4. Quash the impulse to defend yourself. If you apologize and the other person says, "Yes, you behaved badly," just nod your head. Explain to the other that you really care about him or her and that you are willing to modify your behavior.
  5. Accept the fact that it will take a while to feel better. Care enough to check in later. If each of you shows the other that you really care, the larger issues will resolve themselves. And never use the word "but." In an apology, "I'm sorry, but… " undermines the entire purpose of apologizing.
A community is Christian in the measure in which all know and want themselves to be responsible for the good of each member. This concern about others' salvation must be at the heart of every cell of the Church, especially the heart of the family. This is why charitable correction is a duty that, although, difficult, devolves on everyone.    

    A man approached St. Francis of Assisi and asked him, "Brother Francis, I am in a quandary. In the Bible, it says we should rebuke sinners, but I see people sinning all the time. I don't feel like I should go around rebuking everybody." St. Francis then said, "What you must do is to live in such a way that your life rebukes the sinner. How you act will call others to repentance."

    If every Christian (Catholic) does in this way, many more bridges would be built in the heavenly ladder of salvation.

In the Service of the Lord,
  Fr Thainese Alphonse


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