|Matthew 18:15-20 ©|
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone … if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.
‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.
Today’s passage comes after the parable of the Lost Sheep, which is a lesson on God’s mercy and compassion. Notably, that passage opens with the caution to treat little children with proper care. Today’s text is an instruction on how disciples should treat differences with and faults of their brothers (and sisters). Basically, the call is to treat the offenders with compassion. If reasonable attempts to bring the brother to reconciliation fail, i.e. if he shows no signs of the wanting to alter his ways, treat him as a gentile or tax collector (outsiders).
The sacrament of Penance (reconciliation) hinges on this edict by Christ – the extension of God’s mercy and compassion to His beloved creations. He will give them every chance to repent and recover a state of grace (friendship) with Him. The Church believes that no sin is too big that it cannot be forgiven by God. Though people may offend and reoffend, 70X7 (infinitely), absolution is guaranteed, if the contrition is from the heart. How then can a priest (representing Christ), break his professional oath of confidentiality. It is essential, both for the process of healing, and is a reassurance that the contrition is between the sinner and his savior. What is bound here is bound also in heaven. The Church cannot surrender this sacred duty. Not only priests, but many believers will be prepared to be martyrs in the service of God. A nation built on Christian values and traditions would do wrong to dismantle what is a practice of religious freedom.