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.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1784

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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