(Romans 15: 1-7)
One of the most serious issues affecting society on all levels is the complete breakdown of relationships between people. This can be seen even within the same family, where spouses are estranged because of disagreements, and there is alienation between children and parents. What is the result? Husband and wife end up divorced. Children cut ties with their parents (or vice versa). It can be seen everywhere in our communities: Brothers, friends, associates, and neighbors are cold to one another, accuse one another (or worse) and avoid each other.
There are many reasons why relationships end up in this way. The key reason has to do with our own selfishness. When another person does or says something that offends us, we react strongly against it. Or when we feel that we are right about something, and others disagree with us. When we think only of our own feelings and disregard the other person, conflict is inevitable. This is led to sad consequences for all of us.
St. Paul, with today’s passage from his Letter to the Romans, points us in the right direction in carefully relating with others, declaring that "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak" (verse 1).
Those of us who are in the right and stronger in faith must tolerate the weakness of those who are weaker in faith and lack understanding. Let us look more closely at “we ought.” The other person may know less about the will of God and not realize they are wrong. It may very well be a complete misunderstanding or they are unaware of the consequences of what they are doing or saying. Whatever the case may be, it is on us to try and help them understand. If this fails, and they persist in their actions, then we are to tolerate their weakness in the name of love, as the Holy Apostle teaches us, and not push them away.
St. Paul continues: “Not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification" (verses 1-2).
If everyone just does whatever they want without any regard for others, then naturally there will be confrontations. If we listen to the words of St. Paul and take care not to hurt others, then joy and peace will prevail. Later in Romans, St. Paul also adds something else that is very important: "Be kindly affectionate to one to another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Romans 12:10). Our relationships with family, friends and neighbors will be settled if we do this.
The Holy Apostle also refers to patience in this passage. We know from personal experience how difficult it can be, dealing with different personalities. This is why he recommends patience.
"We through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (verse 4), and "May you with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 6).
There are countless incidents in life that remind us that patience is one of the greatest virtues, saving us from many difficult situations. The Lord said, "By your patience you will possess your souls" (Luke 21:19). The examples that we can find in the Bible, like Job, encourage us to patiently deal with our struggles. Since patience is a divine gift, St. Paul prays for God to give it, so that harmony between people will be preserved.
St. Paul ends with these words: "Receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God" (verse 7).
My dear brothers and sisters, imagine how it would be if these last words of the Apostle were constantly in our minds. We would never allow our relationships to suffer such agony. Christ accepted us! What condition were we in, when Christ overlooked all of our sins and forgot everything? What was our state when he accepted us as His brothers and sisters, and died on the Cross for our sake? St. Paul responds: "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5: 8). Let us also accept other people with tolerance, patience, and love, no matter what they may have done to hurt us. In this way, our lives will be filled with peace, joy and goodwill for all. Amen.