September 6 – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Where did we go wrong? The idea that we need to be a rugged individualist, that we are not our brother’s keeper, that other people’s lives and actions are their business, not ours is just simply not scriptural. In other words, this is NOT what God intends. Ezekiel in the first reading today tells us that our responsibility for one another requires us to warn each other so as to “dissuade the wicked” from their ways. If we fail to do so, says the prophet, then we are culpable. God made us to be responsible for one another. In today’s second reading from Paul’s correspondence with the believers in Rome, Paul reminds us of our mutual “debt.” We are to love one another. We “owe” this to one another, says Paul. In loving, we fulfill the law. Because of our love for one another, we help one another to avoid sin and do what is right. In today’s Gospel, Matthew gives us a glimpse of the inner workings of the early church. In order to help one another to become more authentic images of God, the community had worked out a process whereby those who sinned might be made aware of their sin, then seek forgiveness and be reconciled to God and to their brothers and sisters in Christ. I find though too often we skip the first step in this reconciliation process. Most of us jump to the second or third step right away. The first step says: “If your brother/sister sins against you, go and tell him/her their fault between you and him/her alone.” In other words, keep it to yourself! Try to work things out between the two of you first before going and complaining to others. When a parishioner complains to me about something someone on staff did or said, wanting me to fix it, I always ask, did you talk to that person first? Step two and three in the Gospel story today should be a last resort….telling first one or two, or then the whole church.
Sometimes when hearing confessions, the person confessing confesses the sins of the other person, not their own. Yes, we get angry at other people for something they said or did, but they did not make us sin. We choose to react/respond in a way that is sinful or not. Reconciliation is an art that unfortunately many have not learned or experienced. Reconciliation is a grace from God – we cannot do it by ourselves. The expression forgive and forget is impossible for humans – only God has divine amnesia! While we never forget, we humans CAN forgive. God’s grace empowers us to be agents of forgiveness and reconciliation. Give forgiveness and reconciliation a try! It is said that practice makes perfect! Maybe that is what Jesus means when he says for us to become perfect as our heavenly father is perfect!!
Have a blessed week!