Pastoral Sharings: "23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
  September 7, 2014 

There are quite a few instructions for the Christian  
disciple in today’s readings.

The Prophet Ezekiel tells us that the Lord appointed him 
as a sentry to the House of   Israel. It was his task as a prophet to correct the wicked; to warn them of the 
consequences of their evil ways otherwise their destruction becomes his responsibility.

As a prophet, Ezekiel’s task was to speak out and clearly explain the commands of the Lord. Paul is doing the same sort of thing in his Letter to the Romans; he tells them that they must obey all the commandments and love their neighbours.

Paul’s language is more moderate and poetic than that of Ezekiel: Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. Just as Christ did, Paul focuses down all the commandments to this one command of love.

In our Gospel passage St Matthew recounts Jesus’ instructions to the disciples about how they should deal with a brother who does something wrong. It is the duty of the disciple to point out the error and even to underline it should he not be well received the first time.

St Matthew obviously wants to let the Christians in his community know how to deal with those who drift away from the teaching of Christ or blatantly contravene the commandments. And he chooses those words of Jesus which most stress the authority and the competence of the Christian community, the Church, to deal with these cases: Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

However, there are some safeguards built into this teaching on reproving those who go astray. Jesus says that first of all you must have it out with him alone. This might lead to a speedy solution and the person’s good name is preserved.

If this achieves nothing, then you can go to him with witnesses and only then appeal to the community. The assumption all along is that the matter is serious; after all we can’t go making complaints about someone to the Church authorities on anything trivial. Yet it seems that the only sanction is that the person be excluded from the community of the Church. That is surely the meaning of the words: treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

But in considering such matters we must be very careful; for getting all worked up about the behaviour of another can frequently be a sign of something else, something much closer to home. It can often be a projection on to others of our own very real but hard-to-face problems.

One of the greatest differences between the Catholicism of my grandparent’s generation and that of today is the lack of stress nowadays on the frequent examination of conscience.

If you look in an old prayer book you will find a fair quota of pages given over to the examination of one’s conscience. It was something every Catholic did nightly as part of their night prayers. It was something done especially before receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.

I looked up Night Prayers in my grandmother’s old prayer book and found this one: O my Lord Jesus Christ, judge of the living and the dead, before whom I must appear one day to give an exact account of my whole life; enlighten me, I beseech thee, and give me a humble and contrite heart, that I may see wherein I have offended thine infinite majesty, and judge myself now with such a just severity, that then thou mayest judge me with mercy and clemency.

The rubrics then invited the reader to examine what sins he or she had committed and, as it said, to conceive a great sorrow for having offended God.

It is very easy to be conscious of the sins of others and to find in oneself a great zeal to see that these are brought to light and corrected. But this is not the act of the true disciple of Christ.

Rather we who aim to follow Jesus should call to mind the occasion when the woman was caught in adultery and be too ashamed of our own sins to cast the first stone.

It is undoubtedly important to speak the truth. This is the role of every prophet throughout the ages and each one of us as been anointed as a Prophet of the New Testament in our Baptism so we should fearlessly speak out the truth. We should name sin and the works of the evil one for what they are.

But not everyone can bear to hear the complete truth, not everyone is fit or able to receive it, especially when it is aimed at uncovering a moral or personal failing. The naked truth can be crushing.

So what do we do? Well I think we go back to St Paul and further back again to Christ whose words he quotes. The sum of all the commandments is to love our neighbour; this comes before everything else.

So let us speak the truth, but let us speak the truth in love. Let us do things Christ’s way, let us do whatever we do in love. Jesus was himself the very personification of the truth but he was also the very personification of love. And these two virtues were not separated in him.

Like the Prophet Ezekiel we too may rightly consider ourselves sentries of the House of Israel. The sentry must be ever vigilant, but he must also be ever loyal. We can watch out for others who contravene the rules of the Christian life but first we must be sure of ourselves, certain first that we ourselves are in full conformity with the Lord’s commands.

The sentry is vigilant and loyal, but he is also armed and ready to use his weapons. But the arms of the Christian sentry are not the weapons of war; rather they are the weapons of love.

The true disciple loves his neighbour just as much as he loves himself. His weapons are the weapons of the gospel; they are goodness, kindness, gentleness and fraternal concern.

And if our sentry happens to turn a blind eye to his own faults then he can surely turn a blind eye to the faults of his neighbour.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 7, 2014

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—September 7, 2014
Previously in this Gospel, Jesus has spoken about authority in His Church. Today, He shows us how it works.

Gospel (Read Mt 18:15-20)

Today, Jesus teaches His disciples about life in the Church He intends to build. Earlier (Mt 16), He established Peter as its head, giving him the “keys” to the kingdom. Now, He addresses various situations that will undoubtedly arise in His community of followers as they seek to live the new life of that kingdom.

Twenty-third Sunday: Sentinels of Love
As you might know, I’m a city boy.  I grew up in Northern Jersey in what was really a suburb of New York City.  So, I don’t know a whole lot about life in the country.  Still I heard something about the country that I believe is true.  I heard that when crows are descending on a crop, say eating corn or whatever is available, there is always one crow that stands guard high up from a tree.  That crow’s job is to warn the others if he sees a fox or any animal that could attack them.  Now, what I heard was that if the crow does not warn the other crows, and they are attacked, the surviving crows will kill the unobservant sentinel.

Eucharistic Healing
I Thirst

Among many Catholics there is a privation, a sense of absence and even estrangement from true communion with God. This is a paralyzing reality among some believers. How can this be when Jesus is always and truly present in the Eucharist, on the altars and in the tabernacles of the world? Jesus hasn’t abandoned us; He is truly and perpetually present. In His Presence there

Knowing the Trinity
Richard of St. Victor, a 12th-century Scottish theologian, is not exactly a household name in 21st-century Christian circles. Truth to tell, I only know of him because of a curious conversation I once had with my friend, the late Richard John Neuhaus, who, as only he could, told me of a friendly discussion he’d had with Rabbi David Novak one summer about the Scotsman’s Trinitarian theology, which tried to establish by reason that God must be triune. (We talked about a lot of strange and wondrous things, up there on the cottage deck in the Ottawa Valley.)

Saying Yes to Spiritual Discipline
When you watch your favorite athlete what do you notice?  Are you impressed by the grace and skill he brings to the game?  Are you awed by his flawless technique? No doubt, you’re also taken with how much he seems to enjoy what he is doing. Because it looks so easy and fun, we should not assume that he is so good just because he was born with all those talents and skills. We know of many talented athletes who were failures through lack of discipline. For most athletes, to get to the top of their profession requires rigorous discipline.

7 Things You Need to Know About The Catholic Church
The purpose of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus. Too many people have a false understanding of the purpose of the Catholic Church. After Jesus made the Church, He gave a clear mission statement to His apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” -Matt 28:19-20. Everything else the Church does, feed the hungry, perpetuate the Sacraments, etc. is in service to this mission. Evangelization isn’t optional.

On Lying
Daniel Mahoney’s book, The Other Solzhenitsyn, follows the judicious pattern with which Mahoney, in previous books, treated de Gaulle, Aron, Manent, and other writers. We note that one of the commandments tells us not to “lie.” After reading Mahoney, we suspect that the “lie,” not murder, adultery, or stealing, is the most heinous of all the sins.

God Has a Flare for the Dramatic
NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has recently disclosed that two years ago, on July 23, 2012, planet Earth almost plunged into global catastrophe.

On that date, a solar flare — better known in scientific parlance as a “coronal mass ejection” (CME) — came close to hitting the Blue Planet and disabling electrical appliances everywhere, thereby causing a widespread global blackout. It was the most powerful storm on the sun in more than 150 years.

What You Owe Your Wife
Married love is a potent teacher of truth. The family, as the Church points out, is the “school of love”.  And as a father, I’m learning more and more how vital the love I have and live towards my family has consequences beyond my home.  It’s a school of love, but I am probably not the best headmaster.  But, this headmastership is not an appointment but a vocation, a calling, and God has promised and proven that He sustains and directs those that he calls.  God be with this fool, and if I am a fool may I be one for you.

Sanctity in the Small Things
As Jesus watched at the entrance of the Temple the money being thrown into the treasure-box, He did not pay so much attention to the rich and their large sums that they threw in. Indeed they wanted to be seen and applauded for their abundance given ostentatiously.

Then a poor widow threw a few small coins in the treasure box barely amounting to anything! This was the person that Jesus looked at with great love and approval. Why? Not for the economic substance of her offering—it was barely anything. Rather, Jesus read the depths of her heart. She was giving generously all that she had to live on.

On the Glory of Purgatory
Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross by S. Mark Heim is a fascinating exposition of the thought of Rene Girard to the theology of the atonement or “what really happened when Jesus died on the cross. I’m reading it as part of my research for a book I am working on called The Sacred Sacrifice which will be an explanation and expansion of Girard’s thought for a popular audience.

Toward the end of the book Heim meditates on an element of Anselm’s thought on the atonement, and records this dialogue in Anselm on the need we have not only for forgiveness, but for participation in forgiveness.

Wake Up, The Glory of the Martyrs Shines Upon You!
In his moving novel, Silence, Japanese-Catholic author Shusako Endo once described the continent of Asia as a “swamp” that choked the sapling of the Gospel and made it uninhabitable for Christianity. That image has always haunted me because a part of my own journey — as a convert to Christianity from Buddhism — has been to bridge two seemingly irreconcilable worlds.

Ohio teen with Down syndrome on journey to serve at Mass in 50 states
HARTFORD, Conn. (CNS) — Kara Jackson, a 16-year-old altar server from Holy Family Parish in Middletown, Ohio is on a quest to serve at Mass in all 50 states.

So far she has served at liturgies in 18 states after recently serving at a morning Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.

Kara’s endeavor is a journey of faith that began in 2013. She has traveled with her family to serve at Masses in states as far west as Nevada, as far south as Georgia and as far east as Maine.

Taste and See: The Five Senses of Faith
Ever since Christ invited Doubting Thomas—for whom a vision of the resurrected Son of God was not enough—to put his hands into the visible wounds, Christian faith has engaged with all five senses of the body.

Faith most obviously comes through hearing, as St. Paul first taught us. But in ways subtle and sublime it also is related to each of the four other senses, even the sense of smell and taste.

Thinking Liturgically: The Gloria
After the Confetior and a few short prayers (such as the Kyrie), the priest then intones the Gloria by proclaiming the first few words aloud:  Gloria in excelsis Deo, Glory to God in the highest.  We are reminded of the night Christ was born, when the angels proclaimed this very phrase to the world.

What we might not realize is that we are joining the angels in that proclamation.  The angels said these words to announce to all humanity that a savior had arrived.  In the singing of the Gloria we announce every part of the Gospel for the world, and as a reminder to ourselves of that Gospel.

The Five Stages of Religious Persecution
I first wrote on the topic of religious persecution over two years ago and since then things have only gotten worse. Clearly the situation in Iraq is awful. But here in the U.S. as well, the threats against religious liberty have continued.

Let Christ Be Your Model in the Spiritual Life
There are very few Christians, even among those who are es­pecially consecrated to God, who have a right idea of what true virtue is. Almost all of them imagine it to consist in a cer­tain routine of piety and in fidelity to certain exterior prac­tices. If with this they have at intervals some emotion of sensible devotion, without taking care to discern whether these emotions come from God or from their own efforts, they at once conclude that they are really virtuous.

Remain Here
Our approximately 48-hour visit to the “top of the mountain” neared its end. I knew we soon would be leaving, with only mid-day prayer and a lunch of Vietnamese food ahead on the schedule. I wanted to savor that prayer experience, to let it satisfy my spiritual taste buds in a way no food ever could.
Perhaps, I thought, I had a bit of Peter in me: Lord, it is good for us to be here.

Find Your Strength in Simplicity
Why does the Gospel present to us the dove as the model and ideal of Christian simplicity, saying, “Be ye . . . sim­ple as doves”?1 To understand this, we must have a clear idea of what simplicity really is.

Simplicity, or purity of intention, consists in keeping before yourself, in all your thoughts, words, and acts, one and the same end, one and the same object — namely, the pleasing of God, or, more accurately, the doing of His will. Thus understood, simplicity appears to us as a virtue at once essential and far-reaching.

What 10 Priests Say About Video Games
10 priests were recently asked to write roughly 4 sentences on the topic of video games. Here is what they said…

Five Ways to Be Catholic at Work
Maybe it’s because of September. Maybe it’s because the great Patrick Lencioni will be on campus next week. Maybe it’s because my desk is a pile of papers each facing a different direction … but I have been thinking a lot about work recently. I looked up saintly advice on how to do it better. Here is what I found.

Treasures of Divine Life
On September 6, 2014, Archbishop Aquila is hosting a special catechetical event to repropose the ancient order of the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.   The Catechetical Congress draws its name from a passage in the Catechism, “Treasure of Divine Life.”  These are notes from a presentation in which we will consider how the signs used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist have a certain order in the Bible, and this order reveals the splendor of what it means to be fully human and fully alive.

Pope Francis to celebrate wedding Mass for 20 couples
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis will officiate at the weddings of 20 couples who plan to tie the knot at St. Peter’s Basilica on Sept. 14.

The Vatican said Friday (Aug. 29) that the couples, all from Rome, would be married by the pope, who is also recognized as the bishop of Rome.

My Big Profound Spiritual Revelation
What a day! Bus late, no breakfast, missed deadline, headaches, depression and post-nasal drip. And when I got home my kids were whiney, my wife mentally quick-fried to a crackly crunch and I was as prickly as a porcupine.

Summoning fatherly concern to its height, I brushed past my weepy child and made for a darkened bedroom (stopping briefly to peck my wife Janet on the cheek). She asked for some kind of help–something about setting the table–but “Urk,” was all I mumbled in reply. I just wanted to go blotto with a pillow over my head till dinner. Maybe with luck an asteroid would strike the earth, annihilate civilization and I could rest.

Virtue Is Attractive: The Crossroads Walk
For the past 20 years, some wonderful young college students have been participating in “Crossroads Walk,” dedicating the 3 months of their summer vacation to trek each year across the nation on behalf of life.

The walk started in 1995 when 15 Franciscan University of Steubenville (OH) students took up then-Pope John Paul II’s challenge to you to spread the gospel of life. Those 15 students now number several hundred thousand and their 1 annual walk has grown into 3. Beginning in May and ending in August, participants trek from Seattle, San Francisco, and San Jose-Los Angeles, crossing 36 states before reaching their destination: Washington, DC. Each group covers anywhere from 10k-15k miles. Weekends feature the groups praying, providing counselling in front of abortion clinics, and speaking at local churches.

Who is the False Prophet of the End Times?
I was brought up in a Protestant church steered by dispensationalist theology.

The preachers loved to study the Biblical books of prophecy almost like fortune tellers to try to predict the future. They tried to read the Biblical books of prophecy in one hand and yesterday’s paper in the other.

Don’t Give in to Discouragement: Finding Hope in the Trials of Life
Psychologists tell us that one of the chief evils of our age, an evil apparently less evident in earlier ages, is that of easy defeat. Be this as it may, most people who are honest with themselves would probably have to admit to indulging in despondency. They are fortunate if they have nothing worse to confess than despondency; there are many who labor under the weight of near-despair. Whether guilty of surrendering to the tempta­tion or whether burdened with a sense of guilt that in fact is without foundation, a man can reduce his spiritual vitality so as virtually to close his soul to the operation of hope. When hope dies, there is very little chance for faith and charity.

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