How many of us in the community this morning were taught by religious sisters or brothers or priests? How many of us had a good Catholic education? Are there sort of iffy, good, questionable? How many of us think that nuns and brothers and priests absolutely always get along, that they never have a conflict at all?
Well, that’s the way it should be, right? Everybody who lives in community should always get along, goes for everybody. Well, I have a little confession to make. Don’t get too excited. Not a big deal. But I don’t like poetry because usually I just don’t want to spend the time trying to figure out what the poet was talking about.
Really, I just don’t care at that point. However, the the one exception to that is Robert Browning and his dramatic manner logs. There is a conversation that someone is having and talking to him or herself. I can deal with that. And in one of Browning’s poems called The Soliloquy in the Spanish Cloister, he gives us the real picture of how difficult it is to live in community.
He writes, Yeah, there goes my heart’s abhorrence. What are your damn flower pots? Go ahead. If he killed men, brother, lawns, by God’s blood were not mine. Kill you? Not what you would expect from a religious is it yet? How true is that for every one of us who lives in a community. Let’s be honest. Don’t people make us crazy?
Husbands and wives. Doesn’t the other make you crazy? Tell me the truth. It’s very difficult for us to hear today’s readings about what it means to live together and not realize how we fall short of that expectation of the Lord. And for those of us who live in the United States in the 21st century, don’t we usually not start out with mercy and love?
But don’t we usually start out with just you? Wait. I’m going to sue you. We live in a very contentious situation right now. Everybody is ready to fight first and talk later. But that’s just the opposite of what we hear in today’s readings. Jesus says very clearly. Talk first and then figure out what you have to do. News reporting.
And for those of us who read the newspaper or watch the news or get CNN headlines, we know that more often than not, there is the word drawn to get them mentality. It seems that everything now is us versus them. It’s not what the Prophet Ezekiel is talking about. It is not what Saint Paul is talking about. We live in a culture of contempt and we are called to change that around.
We are called to realize that we have to respect and show mercy to the other. Yes, it’s not as simple as all of that, but at the same time, life is not supposed to be a blood sport. We are supposed to accept responsibility and live lives with sympathy and understanding and listening to other people. Now, it’s very interesting.
Listen shares the same letters with another word in English. What is that other word in English with which, listen, shares letters. Silence. How many of us live in a silent world? How many of us are surrounded by horns honking, sirens blaring, and people talking very loud on their cell phones? Silence is really a gift. And yet, if we are going to listen for God’s voice in our lives.
If we’re going to listen to our brothers and sisters, then don’t we have to find silence? Don’t we have to become silent? So how do we do this? This is really complicated. And every day it grows more and more difficult to be sympathetic, humble, and listen. We need to learn once again to talk civilly to one another, to settle our differences with peace for everyone.
And we have to learn to do that in the way Jesus says. First talk with one another. If that doesn’t work, bring in a couple of others who might help you with the situation. And then if that doesn’t work, bring in the church. Oh, how does the church listen? How does the church pray? Silently? How does the church resolve differences?
First, we have to learn humility. The church solves the problem with humility. Then we have to love the lost. Yes. Even the one we don’t agree with. Then we have to talk together in love. And then we have to forgive without limits. That’s how the church judges humbly with love, parting endless and forgiving without limits. When Jesus says, then go to the church, that’s what he means.
It is, in fact, the mindset of the great shepherd. It is the mindset that we hear in the Psalm today. And we have to believe that finding the lost, the stray, those people who are undesirable. We have to be committed to unity in times of difficulty, especially among the flock of Jesus. That’s how we get along. That’s how we show mercy and that’s how we experience the mercy of God.
The Prophet Ezekiel, in the reading that we heard today, gives sinners a heads up. But he also says, those of you who are called to gather in the lost heads up, pay attention. That’s part of the love that we owe to our neighbor. And we have to do that with humility and love, listening and silence and forgiving above all else.
As Saint Paul says, we can’t wish evil on the person we don’t like. If we want to live in a world full of neighbors and not people were suing, then we have to learn to talk humbly, mercifully, with forgiveness and love. And that leads us back to our good religious talking about Brother Lord’s. Even after all those years of prayer, the religious doesn’t get it.
After all, he is threatened to kill Brother Lord. He didn’t get the message this morning. Do we get the message? Because it’s the message of Christ Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever