Amanda Gibson-Baresi ’93

In this gospel reading, Jesus teaches his followers how to go about reconciling issues within the community. He begins with, “if another member of the community sins against you…” and then goes on to give some specific steps to bring about reconciliation.

When I read this gospel carefully I found that the reason behind these steps was not necessarily what I was expecting. It wasn’t about vindicating the person who was wronged. It wasn’t even primarily about forcing the sinner to acknowledge his or her wrongdoing. Jesus says, “If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.” The process of reconciliation is about regaining members of the community. The process of reconciling our sins is not directed towards guilt, shame, blame, or retribution; it is about unity.

This gospel reminds me that the most basic unit of Christian community is the relationship between one believer and another. There are billions of Christians in the world, but the success of our faith hinges on each believer’s ability to love, reconcile, and forgive another individual. This brings the Gospel call to “love thy neighbor” to a whole new level. This rings true for me in my life. I can think about being a Christian in the abstract but that commitment is really put to the test once I have a conflict with someone close to me such as a family member or a friend. When I am wronged, can I approach the person who wronged me with love and acceptance, truly seeking to bring them back into communion with me and the Body of Christ? When I am the one who sins, can I recognize that what I did caused harm to the unity of the community instead of focusing only on myself?

Jesus ends this passage with the famous phrase, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Truly, the ability of just one person to reconcile with another is the foundation of Christ’s Church and the very presence of God.