One emphasis of St. Matthew’s Gospel is the Church community. Note that his rendition of the Lord’s Prayer begins with ‘Our Father ’ as compared to how Luke begins his: simply, ‘Father.’
Another striking illustration of this is seen in this Sunday’s Gospel pericope (Matthew 18:15-20).
Jesus counsels His disciples that if someone in the community sins, they have to reach out to that fellow. If he listens to him, then they have won him over to them.
The message of the Gospel links us up with the message of the First Reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9). God appoints the Prophet Ezekiel a watchman of Israel. He was tasked to remind the people of their evil deeds. God promises death to evil-doers and Ezekiel’s failure to call their attention to this means negligence of duty. If this is so, the prophet is responsible for their death.
This Gospel pericope speaks of a mechanism which is put in place in the Christians community to correct an erring brother or sister. This is a silent declaration that in the Church exists both weed and wheat, sinner and saint.
Implicitly, too, to call back the lost brother or sister to the fold is one’s Christian duty.
But then, it’s been proven that it’s more convenient to keep mum about something which does not affect us, and until such time that the consequence of the evil has reached our door step, only then we would speak.
Personal sins do affect the community. Apathy to one’s wrong deeds is not being politically correct to let someone mind his or her own business; on the contrary, it is about encouraging that erring brother to carry on with it, since no one cares anyway.
To win our brother or sister is not to apply force nor pressure. Gentleness is the way to go. It is the way to win him or her over to our side.
St. Thomas Aquinas, a saint and an intellectual luminary of the 13th century, did not just pray for thoroughness but also for charm as well.
St. Francis of Sales would say that a spoonful honey will attract more flies, than a barrel of vinegar.
This same formula was taught to St. John Bosco in his dream when he was barely nine years old: win young people not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness.
I am sure that if there is one way to introduce Christ to others, this is the way to go. This is how Christians ought to rule the world: to go gentle with everyone, and to treat each one as a brother or sister.