Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September 4th, 2011 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 33:7-9
This selection is part of the Prophet’s call to holiness.  Here the oracle of Ezekiel recalls God’s instructions; that he is to correct those who are identified to him as behaving in ways that will result in their death.  Failure to warn them prophetically would constitute a rejection of God’s call and the punishment meted out for the sinner would also be applied to the prophet who failed (“…but I will hold you responsible for his death.”).  In a covenant-like formula, God also says if the waning is unheeded no punishment shall fall to Ezekiel.

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
We are encouraged to listen to the Lord, even if what we are asked is difficult.

Romans 13:8-10
St. Paul, in this reading from his Letter to the Romans, restates the second half of the great commandment saying that following Christ’s commandment to love for one another automatically fulfills any other commandment of the law governing Christian interaction. The Apostle essentially paraphrases Jesus own teaching from St. Matthew’s Gospel, as the Lord debated the Sadducees and Pharisees in Matthew 22:34ff.

Matthew 18:15-20 
“Passing from the duty of Christian disciples toward those who have strayed from their number, the discourse now turns to how they are to deal with one who sins and yet remains within the community. First there is to be private correction; if this is unsuccessful, further correction before two or three witnesses; if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the church), and if the sinner refuses to attend to the correction of the church, he is to be expelled. The church's judgment will be ratified in heaven, i.e., by God. The section ends with a saying about the favorable response of God to prayer, even to that of a very small number, for Jesus is in the midst of any gathering of his disciples, however small. “ [1] See NAB Footnote on Matthew 18:15-20

As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today’s first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Galatians 6:16).

He also puts in place procedures for dealing with sin and breaches of the faith, building on s of discipline prescribed by Moses for Israel (see Leviticus 19:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:13).
The heads of the new Israel, however, receive extraordinary powers - similar to those given to Peter (see Matthew 16:19).
They have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins and to reconcile sinners in His name (see John 20:21-23).

But the powers He gives the apostles and their successors depends on their communion with Him. As Ezekiel is only to teach what he hears God saying, the disciples are to gather in His name and to pray and seek the will of our heavenly Father.

But today’s readings are more than a lesson in Church order. They also suggest how we’re to deal with those who trespass against us, a theme that we’ll hear in next week’s readings as well.

Notice that both the Gospel and the First Reading presume that believers have a duty to correct sinners in our midst. Ezekiel is even told that he will be held accountable for their souls if he fails to speak out and try to correct them.

This is the love that Paul in today’s Epistle says we owe to our neighbors. To love our neighbors as ourselves is to be vitally concerned for their salvation. We must make every effort, as Jesus says, to win our brothers and sisters back, to turn them from the false paths.

We should never correct out of anger, or a desire to punish. Instead our message must be that of today’s Psalm - urging sinner to hear God’s voice, not to harden their hearts, and to remember that He is the one who made us, and the rock of our salvation.

You can Listen Here to Scott Hahn's commentary
Deacon Jim

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