Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

First Reading: In this reading, Ezekiel, a prophet during the Babylonian exile, articulates why God seems to have abandoned the house of Israel. He speaks words of comfort and tells of the eventual restoration of the people. The image of the watchman, one responsible for alerting the people of impending danger, surfaces as an apt description of Ezekiel’s prophetic vocation.

Psalm 95: Psalm 95 challenges the people to listen to God’s voice and to open, not harden, their hearts to its invitation.

Second Reading: This passage is part of Paul’s ethical exhortations to the Romans in chapters 12-15. Paul stresses that we are to “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” for Paul, love of others fulfills the law.

Gospel: In today’s Gospel, Matthew has Jesus address the challenges of disagreement and lack of harmony and respect among members of Christ’s disciples.

Reflection: RESPONSIBLE LOVING Wouldn’t life be great if we could take Jesus’ words in today’s gospel at face value, literally? Getting two people to agree about some things we might pray for may not be difficult at all, especially if the outcome of our prayer is exactly as we envision it. But, are our intentions pure? Will the intention really be heard? Are these intentions from a harmonious community?

In today’s gospel, Matthew has Jesus address the challenges of disagreement and lack of harmony and respect among members of Christ’s disciples. Matthew is the only evangelist who twice (in last week’s Gospel and today’s) uses the word ekklesia for Christ’s disciples, often translated as “the Church.” The passage reads like a manual for Christ’s community on how to work toward reconciliation in addressing conflict and sinfulness among community members. It also addresses how to handle a member who hardens his or her heart to the community’s counsel, while assuring the faithful community of Christ’s presence in his or her deliberations.

Facing another about hurts is one of the most difficult things we can undertake. From the other side, admitting that we have hurt another – even something so simple as apologizing to another for an inadvertent hurt – takes great humility and honesty. Neither facing another nor facing ourselves about sinfulness is easy!

The good news and strength to be reconcilers come from Jesus’ promise that he is in the midst of two or three gathered in his name. The challenge of this gospel is to grow in the consciousness that we and others are the presence of the risen Christ for one another, and then to act accordingly.

Jesus promises that whenever the community prays for guidance in matters that affect the wellbeing of the entire community, he will be with them.  The responsibility to work toward reconciliation, to pray for guidance, and to rely on Christ’s abiding presence belongs to the entire community and not just its leaders.

Question for reflection: When have I experienced Jesus present when two or three are gathered in his name?

Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.

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