Today’s Gospel again sees Jesus looking ahead to the community of disciples that will continue after his death and resurrection. He instructs his disciples how do deal with a conflict among them. First, the Lord says, try to resolve the disagreement between the people concerned, and if that doesn’t work, the community should bring the disputing parties together. If that fails then the offender must be barred from the life of the Church.
St Paul reminds the Christian community in Rome of God’s commandment, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Sometimes, love requires us to speak the truth and to challenge those who are acting unjustly.
Behind this teaching is an important truth. Jesus doesn’t call us to find our way to him on our own. He calls us into his Church. We are all members of the Church by our baptism and the Church is a community where every member matters. Everyone should be heard when there’s a dispute. No one should be excluded unless it’s necessary for the good of the community as a whole; and even then, the aim of excluding the sinner is to bring them back into the Church. The power to ‘bind and loose’ that Jesus gives to the Church is meant to be exercised for healing – to build up the Body of Christ.