My brother’s keeper

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In one of the children’s activities of last week, it was suggested that the children learn to place themselves in someone else’s shoes. If we do this ourselves, it may help us to understand better today’s Gospel, especially its first part. Jesus is speaking about how one is to correct someone who has sinned, someone who has made a wrong choice. If we were the ones who sinned, how would we want others to behave towards us? One of our failings, is gossip. When someone does something wrong, news spreads like wild fire, family and friends get to know, and at times the rumour even pops up on social media and in no time at all, this person is judged by one and all. In this Gospel, Jesus is giving us three steps to follow when we correct others.

If we know someone who has done wrong, Jesus wants us to approach this person on his own and talk to him. If this person recognises the fault and is sorry about it, the situation ends there and then. We do not need to tell others about it! If this person does not accept his wrongdoing, we may ask others to help us make him understand. However, we do not turn to others to outnumber him! Jesus wants us to try lovingly and make this person understand, what he has done wrong. If the person recognises the wrong he has made, the case is put to rest. Jesus wants us to try to make things right at all costs, he does not want anyone to take the wrong path. So in this Gospel, Jesus says, that if this person does not accept his wrongdoing when spoken to, we should turn to the Church. The Church is the community. The community is a group of people who have a similar aim in life. Those in a Christian community help each other to grow in their relationship with Jesus. The community is there to help those who make mistakes, to warn in loving ways, so that that person may repent and move on. When I do not manage to help a person who has sinned, and I have neither managed to do so with the help of others, I should turn to those who have better knowledge. If the person in question continues with his wrong decisions, his behaviour shows that does not intend to continue forming part of the community. It is this person who excludes himself. The Church or community, still has the responsibility to pray for this person. 

Wouldn’t we want others to act this way with us? Let us stop and think. How do we correct our children? Do we speak to them when they are on their own, or do we correct them in front of others? If there is some disagreement between us adults, do we talk together or do we gossip with our friends about this situation? Today’s Gospel, has one main message, whatever we do, we should do with love.

The second part of the Gospel may confuse us. We believe that Jesus is always with us. So why does he say “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”? Scripture can never be taken out of context if one is to interpret it properly. This Gospel has been primarily written for a Jewish audience, who knew the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) by heart. When Jesus speaks of sin and the warning of others about their wrongdoings, his audience would have immediately remembered the passage in Deuteronomy which speaks about lack of understanding and solutions thereof. Deuteronomy refers to the need of having two or three witnesses, one person alone cannot bring forward a case for judgement. In this passage Jesus speaks about how one can show a person that he is in the wrong. In this part of the Gospel, he is assuring us, that when two or three are praying for a solution to the matter, or praying for wisdom of how one can proceed, he will be there. Jesus did not want us to understand that we cannot pray on our own. The Church is made up of all of us, decisions are not taken by any one person. So this is the context Jesus is speaking in. Let us remember that we are part of the Church and we are part of the Body of Christ. When we have a headache, our whole body aches, when the headache passes our whole being is better. As a Church, we cannot ignore those who do wrong, and we just dismiss them. Jesus is telling us clearly, that we should try our utmost, so that all of us continue to be united.

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 18, 15-20)

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Read the Gospel story so that you are familiar with it.
  2. Reflect on what the Gospel story is saying to you. Which points would you highlight and how do they affect you now?
  3. Listen to We are one body in Christ, the fact that it is sung in different languages helps us to remember that the Church is one and universal.
  4. Think about the times you have corrected the children, about your behaviour when there is lack of understanding with your husband/wife. Can your words be better chosen, can your behaviour be more loving?
  5. Have you been to confession lately? Today Jesus is inviting you to go to him.
  6. Together with your family find the right time to read this gospel. The environment helps, so before you start, prepare:
    a) The Bible reading from St Matthew (18, 15-20)
    b) A lit candle
    c) Cover the table with green cloth
    d) A computer/laptop with the reading and clips
  7. Go through the steps with your children (2 age groups are being suggested)
  8. Feel free to adapt to your situation
  9. Be creative 😊

Jesus knows that we will not always make good choices, so he wants to teach us what we have to do in such challenging circumstances.

We will learn that:

  • Jesus wants us to be friends with everyone
  • When we work as a team, we manage to do things better

We need:

  • A3 paper
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Printout of the template below
  • Scotch tape

Today’s Gospel is not easy to understand. Jesus wants to teach us that it is good to be friends with others. When someone does something wrong, the best thing one can do is talking to them directly while trying to help them understand their mistakes. So if, for example, my sister wants to play the same game which I am playing with, I do not lose my temper! I will firstly talk to her and find the best solution that will make both of us happy. If I do not manage, I will ask mummy to try and help us. The important thing is that both my sister and I are happy. The same goes with our friends and with our parents. When there is a misunderstanding we ought to see what we can do to make things right again.

Dear kids, you probably like to watch football games, or maybe you play football as well! When there is a free kick, what do the players of the other team do? (they form a wall/barrier)

Do you know why they form this wall? (so that the players of the opposing team will find it difficult to score)

We are the same. When we are united together, we are stronger. This is why Jesus wants us to be, friends with everyone. Here comes an example. I am afraid to go upstairs alone in the dark, but if someone else comes up with me, I will not be afraid. Similarly, if I am alone and someone asks me to do something which is not right, I will find it difficult to say no. Yet if I am with other friends of Jesus, together we will have enough courage to say no.

In today’s activity we are going to do a paper chain representing the friends of Jesus. Cut the A3 paper in two, from the long side. You now have two strips of paper. Fold them like a fan, the width of the template below. Cut the template and draw the girl and boy of the top side of the paper. Cut along the outline and open (this clip may help you to understand better).

Do the same thing with the other piece of paper and stick the two together to make one long chain. Help the children to write on each boy and girl, the names of friends and family (adults included). They may want to draw faces and colour the chain. Put this chain representing the friends of Jesus in a place where it is seen by the family. During family prayer, the children will remember to pray for their family and friends. Remind the children to pray and mention any persons with whom they may have disagreements. We should explain to them that if we break our friendship with some among the friends, the chain will break and the chain of Jesus’ friends will not be as strong as before. Whilst doing this activity listen to, God’s family.

Sign of the cross

Thank you Jesus, you teach us how we can remain friends together. Help us to love others in the same way that you love us.

Today Jesus will teach us that if we love our friends, when they do something wrong, we should help them.

We will learn that:

  • Jesus wants us to talk to our friends when they do something wrong
  • Before talking to them, it is best to pray to Jesus so that he might help us choose wisely and with a charitable spirit what to say
  • When we sin, we are no longer friends with Jesus and with others
  • When we are sorry for our sins, Jesus forgives us

We need:

  • Two balloons
  • A box of matches

What happens if my friend does something which hurts me and I become angry and offended, and my friend does not realise that I was hurt? Most probably, something similar to what happens to a balloon. (Start blowing the balloon). Imagine every time we meet I do not talk to him. He will be mixed up and confused, maybe he will also get angry (blow more air into the balloon) and days will pass and he will get angrier (blow as much air as possible into the balloon). What is going to happen? The balloon will burst soon (burst it) and it is now no longer a balloon but many pieces. This is what will happen to our friendship, it will no longer exist. But if instead, I stop and think and conclude that I would like to remain friends, I will go to speak to him, about why I was hurt.  What do you think will happen now? (Blow some air into the other balloon). This friend, who wants to remain being my friend, will not continue to be angry at me (let the air come out of the balloon) and we will be friends again.

In this Gospel, Jesus is telling children and adults alike, how to behave when someone does something wrong. It is not always easy to tell someone that he has made a bad choice. This is why we need help. Jesus will give us the help we need. Before speaking to our friend who has chosen badly, we should ask Jesus for help. On the other hand, if we give up and we do not talk to him, it could be that he will continue making the same wrong choice. He will continue to lose more friends. For such a reason, Jesus is telling us that when we see someone doing something which is wrong, we go and talk to him while he is alone. We should never spread the word with others, instead of trying to help anyone who needs our help! It could be that the person who is mistaken, does not understand. This moves us to ask someone else to come with us to help him or her understand what they did wrongly. It could be that even than this person continues to make wrong choices. In this case, Jesus tells us to ‘tell the Church’. This person has done wrong, he has sinned and he did not want to change, when we spoke to him. It would be best if we ask someone else to speak to him. We may ask a priest or a catechist. I go to a priest since I would like this person to change and become better and not to report him or his mistakes! Jesus also asks us to pray for those who make bad choices so that they become aware of their his mistake, repent and become friends with the others again. 

We have said that this person has sinned. Do you remember what we should do when we sin? (We go to confession)

Jesus knows that we will not always make the right choice. When we sin we do not remain friends with Jesus and with others. So when we go to confession, we again become friends with Jesus and with the others as well.

Jesus is our best friend and together we form the Church. Jesus wants his friends to remain united together. If someone does something wrong, he will affect the others too.

Get a box of matches and turn the box upside down so that the matches are on top of each other. Can I remove one of the matches from underneath without moving the others? (no) the same happens to the Church, the friends of Jesus. When someone sins and does not want to repent, and he leaves the Church, when he leaves he will affect the others as well.

Sign of the cross

Jesus I want to follow you, even though sometimes I find it difficult. Give me the courage and the strength to make good choices and in so doing I show others that you love us. Amen.

We say the Act of Contrition
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy. Amen.

Listen to Better together.

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.