23rd Sunday Of Ordinary Time – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“How To Correct A Person”.
Everyone has to think about his or her soul! Is this expression correct? No, because, as the readings of today tell us, we are also responsible for our brothers and sisters.
Today’s first reading tells us just that and explains this ‘truth and responsibility’ with the comparison of the sentry who is expected to blow his horn when he sees danger.
The second reading complements this theme because it presents to us love for the other person as the fundamental rule that must guide all of our actions.
The Gospel suggests the way to follow in the correction of a brother or sister.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
A sentry is a soldier who guards army camps, one who watches so that his side may not be attacked by surprise. In ancient times all towns and cities had sentries who kept guard day and night. Some would take up positions on high mountains so as to be able to keep an eye on all that went on over a large area and whenever they noticed anything suspicious or saw an enemy approaching they were expected to blow a horn to warn the people of impending danger. The sentry who had not been watchful or who had not blown the horn would be held responsible for what happened to those he was supposed to guard. If he blew the horn, but the people ignored it and just carried on with their routine tasks, then disaster could not be blamed on him.
The first reading for today compares the mission of the prophet to the task of a sentry. The prophet Ezekiel, enlightened by God, is the first one to realize how badly things are going, and how soon a change of life is necessary. It is the prophet’s duty to intervene, speak out frankly and make the people understand that they have moved away from God and that they are ruining their lives. If he doesn’t do it, he will be held responsible for the ruin of his brothers and sisters. If he warns the wicked, but they do not heed his warning, then the prophet is not guilty. Each one of us is a prophet by virtue of our baptism and therefore a ‘guard’ responsible at least in part for what happens to our brothers and sisters. God says to the prophet Ezekiel, “So you, O mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel, you shall give them warning from me.”
As a prophet, Ezekiel knows better than most people what is on God’s mind. He has a charge to be God’s messenger. Were he not to take this appointment seriously, Ezekiel knows he would be responsible for harm coming to those whom he failed to warn. If people suffer the consequences of their poor choices despite his words and attempted guidance, that would now be their responsibility and he would not be held responsible. It is regretful that most churchgoing people do not feel compelled in any way to speak to and guide others who has lost the ‘Way’ from the richness from their spiritual treasure. Nonetheless, we are responsible for what we know and how we use it. Whoever sees somebody misbehaving cannot repeat Cain’s words: “Am I my brother’s keeper”? (Gen 4:9).
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9.
In the Psalm, a Prophet warns the people to heed the message of God and not to imitate their ancestors who hardened their hearts and tested him. The Church fittingly uses this Psalm as an introduction to its official prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, inviting the faithful to worship God. The psalmist carries out the mission of watchman given to Ezekiel and looks ahead to Matthew’s concerns with sin within the ranks of the Church.
Just as some of us do today, the first Christians constantly asked themselves: must we observe the laws of Rome? Should we pay taxes? May a Christian steal from the State, spoil or destroy its goods, damage common property? This is why in the first verses of this chapter, the Apostle recommends to all to be good citizens, to respect the authorities, keep the laws and take care of the goods of the State. In the second part, Paul spells out the general principles to help us solve our doubts on this subject. When we do not know how to behave, when we are in doubt as to what should be done, we should refer to the ‘Commandments’ from which all just laws proceed: “You must love your neighbour as yourself”. If one strives to do only what is good for one’s brother or sister, one is certainly keeping all the commandments. If we keep in mind this principle of love towards others, it is easy to understand that all the laws of the State, when they are just and promote common good, have to be kept.
Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel from where the text of today is taken was written in response to save problems that troubled the Christian communities: who is the first? What to do when there are scandals? What to do if a Christian gets lost? How do we correct one who goes wrong? When can prayer be called community prayer? How often should we forgive?
The law “love your brother” certainly demands that we should try to help him return to the right path; but how should we proceed to achieve such a delicate task? One thing for certain must not be done: Spread the news of the mistake or transgression. This is the surest way to humiliate and irritate him, to harden him in his guilt, to cause him useless suffering and perhaps even make his recovery impossible. We should always keep in mind that when we turn a brother into an enemy, or ruin his family, or destroy his marriage … these are very serious sins.
Jesus tells us explicitly how we are to care for others. “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the brother or sister listens to you, you have regained that one. If you are not listened to, take one or two others with you, so that every word may be confirmed.” In other words, every effort must be made to free those who are caught up online casinos in wrongdoing.
We Christians are thus called upon to be “Guards” for our Christian family and for the whole human community. We cannot leave this responsibility only to the hierarchy or to theologians. True the latter have a special role in standing watch; but all Christians share in this responsibility, each according to his or her particular gifts, abilities and circumstances.
The instructions today are also about the importance of forgiving each other. Excluding each other is really to be the absolute last resort. Jesus has not been called to saints but to ‘sinners’. There is no perfect relationship. Disagreements are bound to happen. The question is how do we go about settling the disputes and tensions that arise in our relationships and in our communities? Do we follow Jesus’ suggestions and respect the dignity of the person? Or do we write people off who hurt us?
These are all questions we need to ask ourselves whenever we feel offended. To keep loving the person who has wronged us, to take the first step towards reconciliation, to respect the other’s dignity and to avoid the other’s humiliation are powerful tools we can use to bring people back together again. What creates unity in a community is the conviction that we are all gathered together in the name of Jesus, especially when we unite together in prayer.
The community has no right whatsoever to send away one of it members who misbehaves, only because it feels ashamed of him / her and humiliated by his / her presence. It cannot feel contaminated by sinners: they are its sons and daughters. The Church is not a group of holy and just people, people without blemish or sin that excludes those who go wrong. However those who call themselves Christians but act in ways incompatible with the Gospel message, spread racist ideas, support hatred, discrimination and violence should be confronted and corrected by the community.
The last part of the Gospel reading of today tells us that God does not like persons who think only about themselves, who are only concerned about their own spiritual life. God wants to be the God of people who find their full realization in the community. How many persons do we need to make a community? Two persons gathered together in the name of Jesus are enough.
As a “Guard” or a “Sentry”, the good we do will always be in proportion to the depth of our love to others. Today’s Gospel is not easy to follow. So, we try to approach each other gingerly, hoping that our efforts at giving voice to our hurt and concerns will be accepted in the best possible spirit. It may not work, but it beats planting a ‘fatal orchid’ with our anger, hatred, isolation or indifference.
Jesus asks us to be responsible for one another. Genuine love includes confronting and correcting. This is not judging. Not to confront may be condoning the wrong and sharing the guilt. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper!
When the ordinary structures of reconciliation breakdown, the true disciple of Jesus must seek the one who is lost, just like the Master would!
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 23rd Sunday
of Ordinary Time: Year A, we reflect on …
Sun … Ezekiel compares the mission of a prophet to the task of a sentry. To be watchful and to intervene; to speak out frankly when people have moved away from God. We all have been given missions; different in many respects according to our varying talents but this particular mission of being a sentry is one that we share in.
Mon … We need to be aware that our appointment to this mission is made at our baptism and needs to be taken seriously. God will hold us responsible for harm coming to those we fail to warn.
Tues … It is regretful that most churchgoing people do not feel compelled in any way to speak out and guide others who have lost the ‘Way’. Today’s first reading reminds us that God holds us responsible for what we ‘know’ and ‘how we use it’. Whoever sees somebody misbehaving cannot exonerate themselves in Cain’s words: “Am I my brother’s keeper”?
Wed … In the second reading Paul says that the ‘Commandments’ are summed up in these words: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love for God and neighbour is the foundation for all Christian action. Because we love our neighbours we look out for them. If they go astray, we warn them. If our love were not evident to them, such warnings would be empty and ineffectual.
Thurs … In the Gospel, Jesus tells us explicitly how we are responsible and to care for one another. Every effort must be made to free those who are caught up in wrongdoing. Genuine love includes confronting and correction. Not to confront may be ‘condoning the wrong and sharing the guilt’.
Frid … Today’s world and the new culture of ‘liberalism’ have made it very hard to correct anybody. Teachers are at a loss regarding the imposition of discipline. Parents who fail to set standards or to correct their children are really doing them no favours. Often children starved of ideals and good standards of behaviour will rebel in a perverse cry for attention and parental love.
Sat … Some people do seem to enjoy criticizing and judging others. We are not called to criticize or to judge others, but to help, correct and guide them in the ‘Way’. Most of us find it a task that we would sooner avoid, as what we have to say may not be pleasant or may be painful. Sometimes painful news can prove to be ‘saving’ news.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, guide us in our responsibility of love for our neighbour. May we always be truthful and compassionate in guiding those who have lost the ‘Way’ and who are in need of a friend and a guiding light. May we understand that genuine love includes confronting and correcting. This is not judging. Not to confront may be condoning the wrong and sharing the guilt. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper! Help us to respect their dignity and always avoid humiliation. May Your guiding love reflected through us help to bring those who are lost back home. We pray that the ‘Light of Christ’ will always shine in us.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.