Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us how to correct a brother or sister. What is so rich here is the pursuit of the issue with a deep care for the person in question and also for the entire family of the Church (since love is our constant call). And then the wonderful conclusion: “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.”
This sounds, at first, like a total rejection, but then we recall how Jesus treated the Gentiles and tax collectors—eating with them, pursuing them, drawing them into his circle. There might be a moment of rejection and expulsion in the process of fraternal correction, but it is only provisional and only for the sake of eventual reconciliation.
St. Augustine, who was never afraid to speak the hard truth when necessary, followed the recommendations of Matthew 18 very concretely. Over the table in his episcopal residence where he dined with the priests of his diocese hung a sign that read: “If you speak ill of your brother here, you are not welcome at this table.”