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LISTEN UP: IT'S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS!


Deacon Melvin Tardy

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time


"For where two or three are gathered together in my name,

there am I in the midst of them." (Mt. 18:15-20)


Relationships.

Relationships.

It’s all about relationships!

Gotta love the blues. The blues are about relationships.

Gotta love soul music. The essence of soul power is relationships.


The psalms are the blues. The Gospels are soul music.

Listen up: it’s all about relationships!



Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, spoke of Black folk

Sr. Dr. "Servant of God" Thea Bowman

marching arm and arm through the fire of the Civil Rights Movement: "See in the old days you had to tighten up so that when the bullets would come, so that when the tear gas would come, so that when the dogs would come, so that when the horses would come, so that when the tanks would come, brothers and sisters would not be separated from one another."


Today’s Gospel, however, speaks to present realities that challenge even kinfolk. Do not the transgressions of those we love and admire – a brother or sister, a wife or husband, a child or parent, a best friend or spiritual hero -- sting much more than those of a stranger? What should we do when that shared space of injustice happens to be the bed of a loved one, the apartment we call home, the building we call “my parish,” the nation we call “my country,” or the religion we call “my Church?”

While some judge, sever ties, or publicly slander on social media, our Lord simply says: Go to the person whose words or actions have hurt you and tell them of their fault – but go alone -- not to accuse or attack, but to win them back! As Marvin Gaye said: “Don’t punish me with brutality – talk to me so you can see what’s goin’ on.” Maybe they were unaware of their sin or its harm. Maybe they were reacting to some sin of our own to which we were blind. The key to victory is to be heard. Avoid speaking so loudly that others cannot hear you over the sound of your own voice! As Jesus says: “If he [or she] listens to you, you have won over your brother [or sister].”


If the person refuses to listen, Jesus says return with 2-3 witnesses. If, for some personal prejudice that person is unable or unwilling to hear you, perhaps they will listen to others. If not, the others can bear witness to your rationale for taking it to the next level.


If that doesn’t work, let the Church serve as your advocate.

Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, FSM

During the Civil Rights Movement, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Catholic Sister Mary Antona Ebo, FSM, and others brought prayers, hymns, collars, and habits – indeed the Church itself -- into the streets to bear witness to injustice and to Christ. King said, “Throw us in jail, and … we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children and … we will still love you. … But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And one day we will win our freedom but we will …so appeal to your heart and your conscience, that we will win you in the process. And our victory will be a double victory.” The Church can similarly be present in marriage counseling, prayer groups, AA meetings, or a visit with clergy. Only if the transgressor refuses to listen even to the Church does Jesus say we may sever all ties and make them as strangers to us.


Jesus understands the challenge – after all, these are the same steps he undertakes with us! We are called by the Eucharist to live in right relationship with God and each other; but we withhold mercy and compound it by turning a deaf ear to our transgressions. Jesus comes not to accuse or attack but to win us back! He has already sent us witnesses (apostles) and the Church. If we do not listen even to the Church, we risk a dreadful end (judgment) when God must sever all ties and treat us as strangers.


But for the sake of the image of God, even within the most sinful of us, Jesus suffers on the cross, turns to the One who we have sinned against, and says, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” My kinfolk in Christ, it is not too late for a double victory. Let us heed the words of the Father: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5).


Author: Deacon Melvin Tardy, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend at St. Augustine Parish in South Bend, Indiana. Deacon Tardy is the current president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.


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3 Comments


Drew Lyke
Drew Lyke
Sep 12, 2023

Judging is way too easy when we characterize someone by their flaws and shortcomings. Keeping in mind that the flawed person is also a child of God with an inherent dignity worthy of honoring helps to slow our judgment. Especially when I’m faced with white supremacist attitudes from someone, I find it easy to reduce that person to that character flaw. It’s easier to dismiss them and return hate for hate. At least 10 years ago, I attended a lecture by Freedom Rider and Civil Rights icon Diane Nash where she said that in their training for nonviolent resistance, they were taught that it was necessary to always remember, especially when confronted by white hate, that no person is an…

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Just hung up with my son who was preparing a lesson on discipleship for young folk. Just came back from a retreat with Trappist monks. The gospel says "treat them as you would sinners and tax collectors." Jesus invited them to stay in the conversation after pointing out the sin - he shows the path to the kingdom as did Sister Thea did. Nice to hear the word from you, Deacon Mel. From your brother Deacon Tim!

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Amen, if we but listen to Him, we could easily forgive them.

Relationship with God is necessary if we yearn for true relationship with others.

Blessings to u

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