Matthew 18:15-20 – The 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 7, 2014
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together…” (Matthew 18:15)
Before knowing my father had dementia, I blamed his vexing behaviors on other things.
Dad was elderly and tired. His hearing was awful (and had been for years). He’d become human cement, set in his ways. He resented, as his body weakened, his loss of independence.
So when he lashed out at me during a visit to Mom and Dad’s home, with his eyes ablaze and jaw clenched and his voice sounding more animal growl than human grumble, I knew where to point my finger: at those “other things.”
“Get out of this house,” he roared. “Don’t come back.”
Dad’s fury, launched at me with the unnerving abruptness of a lightning strike when the storm is miles away, happened several times before my family recognized he had dementia.
I recall how I felt when my father, the lion in winter, verbally assaulted me. What a cranky old fool! Such a stubborn jerk!
And this too: how dare he sin against me? His son! His guest!
I did not retreat from his fury. Remember, I didn’t know of his dementia. I had those other excuses. I tried to engage him in conversation, to comprehend his leave-my-house demand. I did not return his anger with my anger, or his hurt with my hurt. Like the Gospel of Matthew encouraged, “if your brother or sister [or father] sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together.”
Of course, in the New Testament’s Greek, there wasn’t a reference to “sister” in the scripture. But we moderns, desiring to be modern, readily and rightly add “sister” in the interpretation. Women are equal opportunity sinners too, right?
And so are fathers. So was Dad. Continue reading →