23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): Using Our Words
(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
Last Sunday we heard Jesus try to explain to his friends that he would die and on the third day be raised to new life. He is walking with the disciples towards Jerusalem, the great holy city, where this will happen. He knows that this is the plan, but he knows that the disciples don't really understand. As they walk along, Jesus gives the disciples some instructions.
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the brother or sister listens to you, you have regained that one.
Jesus knows that sometimes the disciples do not get along with each other. They love each other, they like doing things together, but sometimes one of them will do something that upsets another. "If your brother or sister sins against you..." Jesus knows this happens.
We know that sometimes when we are playing with our brothers and sisters, they can say something or do something that really bugs us. When this happens, what do we do?
Do we run away and cry?
Do we throw or kick something?
Do we wreck the game we were playing?
Do we hit or bite?
Do we go and tell an adult?
These are all things we could do. But Jesus says,
go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone
The first thing we need to do, Jesus says, is to tell our brother or sister what they have done. Jesus knows that when we are upset by something someone has done, we want to run away and cry, throw or kick or wreck something, but Jesus is saying, first, use your words.
Use our words?
Jesus wants us first to tell the person who upset us what the problem is. Why?
If the brother or sister listens to you, you have regained that one.
"Regained" means to get something back that we used to have. Before the problem, we were playing, having fun, and working together. Before the problem we could say that we loved each other. It is hard to remember that we love each other when we are in the middle of a fight. Jesus is telling us that our brother or sister might just listen to us when we tell them what the matter is. And if they listen, we will get them back. We can all remember that we love each other. We can go back to playing and having fun, and working together.
But what if they do not listen? What if they go on making us upset and angry?
But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you
If we have tried our words but the problem still remains, then it is too big for us alone. We need help. Now it is time to go and get an adult. We want to regain our brother or sister so we can all work together again, but we need someone else to help us sort things out.
I bet we could even do this with our friends at school: use our words first, but if the problem remains, go and get some help. Is it tattling if we have tried our words first? I don't think so. Sometimes we need help to make things right. Sometimes an adult or another person will help us both the other person and ourselves see what we can do to make things right.
It is interesting that Jesus gives the disciples these instructions as they head towards Jerusalem. It seems like he knows that even though he is going to rise to new life, the disciples are going to have to learn how to work out their problems without him. They will have problems with each other just like we have problems with our brothers and sisters and friends. They will want to regain each other and work together again, just like we want to regain our family and friends, and Jesus gives them a way. Is Jesus leaving them on their own?
“Truly I tell you...where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
I wonder if the disciples think this is a strange thing to say. They do not yet know about Jesus' Risen life. They do not yet know that he will seem to be gone, but he will be with them when they gather in his name. And they do not yet know that Jesus will want to share his Risen life with all people.
We know that we cannot see Jesus like the disciples can on the way to Jerusalem. But Jesus tells us that if we gather in his name, he is with us. How do we gather in his name? When we pray together, we begin our prayer by making the sign of the cross,
and we say the words, "In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Who is the Son? Jesus! We pray in his name. And what happens?
I am there
We use our words to regain our brothers and sisters and friends so that we can all pray together, so that Jesus is with us.