September 7: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Ezekiel 33: 7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20
The message of this Sunday centers on our responsibility to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. In other words, the readings remind us that we are called upon to correct and persuade others from any wrongdoing in our Christian community. In the first reading, the Lord sends his messenger as “watchman for the house of Israel” as a spokesperson of the Lord, to warn God’s people. The messenger of the Lord is sent to persuade the wicked from wrongdoing. If not, the Lord will hold the messenger responsible. The underlying message is that we are all responsible for one another in helping each other to remain faithful to the Lord. Here the Lord addresses all of us, urging us to listen to his voice. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This call to faithfulness is also a call to the commandment of love that undergirds all of God’s Commandments. The Commandment of love is also the spirit that leads us to correct others when they stray away. Calling others to account when they persist in wrongdoing is not easy. We ourselves must be living faithfully before we can call others to change their lives. We must be a living example. The bottom line in the message is that we cannot privatize religion, because Christian life is not a private affair between God and me. Such practice of Christian life would lead to a culture of silence before the wrong doing of our brothers and sisters. We are reminded of the obligation to speak up prophetically, from an attitude of humility and the compassion of Christ.
In the Gospel of this Sunday, Jesus challenges us to point out the faults of others privately first, but publicly if necessary. Paul in the Second reminds us that we correct others out of love and concern for their spiritual well being. Elsewhere Paul urges us to “Be kind and tender to one another. Forgive each other, just as God forgave you because of what Christ has done" (Ephesians 4:32). It is then that we are better able to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). If we are sincere in our relationship with Christ, if we are intimately related to Christ and the Father in the Spirit, the zeal to invite others to such a relationship will drive us to speak up before others, inviting them to God’s loving mercy and forgiveness. In the words of St. Paul, true Christian love will enable us to help each other along the way to perfection without an attitude of superiority. Everyone in the Christian community, including those in leadership must be willing to give and to receive loving admonition from others. The message of this Sunday readings may be summed up in three points: 1), Every one of us is called to a life of witness before others; 2) Such life involves personal conversion to Christ and a deeper relationship with God; 3) If we are intimately related to Christ, it is far much easier to invite others to change their way of life. We pray at this Mass that God’s grace may strengthen our Christian witness; to be God’s instruments with the courage to speak the truth in love.
©2008 John M. Mbinda