23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Rick Sherman
September 6, 2020
Ez. 33:7-9; Rom. 13:8-10; Mt. 18:15-18
A BIG Thank you!!! DDD $8753 We made our goal….
Today in his letter to the Romans, St. Paul makes a rather profound claim when he states, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Key to appreciating the full implication of this remarkable claim would be understanding the term love AND just as importantly, that he is addressing a community of believers. Communities in the making. The phrase “one another” implies a symbiotic, or give-and-take, relationship. Committed community.
Back to love. What is it? Or rather WHO is it? In the first letter of John we are reminded very clearly that God is Love and that God loved us first. Any inclination or capacity we might have to love has its genesis in the fact that God, who is Love, loved us first. AND we are made in the image and likeness of that God or in the image and likeness of Love. So, if God loved us first, how exactly does He love us. We see this most clearly in the person of Jesus.
As per our Theology of the Body curriculum we can say that Jesus loves us freely, faithfully, totally and fruitfully…
**I have included some biblical references to show how Jesus loved us in this way, if you pull up this homily from our website.**
Freely, faithfully, totally and fruitfully should also sound familiar to those of you who have entered into a sacramental marriage. Those are the promises you made starting with the declaration that you were entering this marriage FREELY. This gives us a sense of the nature of love that God calls us to. With Him and with ‘one other.’ Since we only marry one person, the larger ‘one another’ refers to the Church, whom Jesus calls His Bride. This is real symbiosis or reciprocal loving. Theologically speaking this is what we are promising when we say AMEN to the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. We are saying Yes (I do) to the reality of Jesus in the Eucharist and also ‘Yes’ (I do) to the Body of Christ sitting in the pew around us. If this spousal type commitment does not happen, then LOVE as we have defined it here, does not happen. And that makes faithful gospel living impossible.
For instance, consider again the scenario playing out in today’s gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother (not biological, but a member of the community) sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. (A symbiotic community of committed believers; perhaps parish council or clergy).
“If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Take him to civil court as is appropriate)
Then Jesus continues, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Where have we heard this recently? This is the power and authority that Jesus gave to the apostles, the Church, a chapter or two back in Matthew.
“Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you (members of the Body of Christ) agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three (real people who know each other well and know the will of the Father) are gathered together in my name, (As members of the Body of Christ – parish, small faith community, diocese, etc.) there am I in the midst of them.”
Remember that God loved us first. Any inclination that we have to love is because God loved us first and made us in the image and likeness of Love. Likewise, any inclination we have to pray was actually initiated by God. Recall the wording again from the gospel: “if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray.” For which they are to pray sounds like an expectation or a directive. From whom? From the Father, the one who grants that for which we ask. To pray sincerely as a community of believers means that after much study and prayer and community building, we eventually align our hearts and minds and wills with the Father so that we actually know to pray for what God wills…and of course it will be granted.
Conversely, the implications and consequences for not being real and prayerful community builders are spelled out rather starkly in the first reading from Ezekiel:
Thus says the LORD:
‘You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die,”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death. (Oh no. What if that’s true?!)
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.’
As a priest I ‘have been appointed watchman’ and have the responsibility to teach and preach what the Church teaches…and follow it ……even when I or the people do not necessarily want to hear it. But likewise, the laity have the responsibility to relay the message with their own lives and their teaching. We are all called to rein each other in with charity and genuine Wisdom. This takes lots of preparation and prayer and TIME.
Perhaps this week we could think of someone who has strayed from the flock in one way or another. What guidance or teaching do they need? First study and apply the teaching to ourselves and then reach out………. It appears that our eternal lives depend on it…
**Jesus loves us FREELY, FAITHFULLY, TOTALLY AND FRUITFULLY.
Freely: Jn. 19:10-11 “You have no power over me…”
Lk. 22:19 “Take it. This is my Body given up for you…”
Faithfully: Throughout the gospels Jesus is demonstrating His faithfulness to the power and authority of the Father when experiencing adulation, charity, rejection, persecution, torture even unto death. He never acts in His own interests.
Totally: Jesus dies faithfully on the Cross (and see Faithfully above).
Fruitfully: Jesus’ death makes possible the Resurrection and the eventual coming of the Holy Spirit which in turn spawns the new Church which goes forth to teach the nations. The gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to spawn the fruits of the Holy Spirit.