Sunday, September 7, 2014

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A (Sept. 7, 2014)

First reading: Ez. 33: 7-9

“Thus says the Lord: You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.  If I tell the wicked, ‘O wicked one, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.  But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn fro his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.”
Second reading: Rom. 13: 8-10
“Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Gospel reading: Mt. 18: 15-20
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”


Introductory theme summary:
The theme common to all three readings is the need to conform our lives morally, to God’s ways.  In the first reading we have an example of both the need to not live sinful lives as well as the responsibility those who fulfill that need have to everyone else that doesn’t.  In the second reading we have the perfect antidote for conforming our sinful behavior to the laws or moral conduct – love; and finally, in the gospel we have Jesus instructing us on how to handle the unfortunate event of sins committed against others within the Church community.

This is a very difficult issue to practice in today’s society.  Due to the permissive attitude these days concerning sin, traditional moral standards are presumed no longer relevant.  Yet those of us who practice our faith by accepting our obligation to conform our behavior morally to God’s ways, as they have been taught to us through the ages – Traditional moral standards, we are accused of being judgmental should anyone express any concern over another person’s sinful choices.  An authentic faith in Christ cannot help but produce such an assessment.  Though we know we have forgiveness for our sins, we also know that repenting our sins is a matter of complying with the Lord’s call to salvation.[1]  No one has the liberty to continue sinning.[2]  And yet, so many so called “Christians” do that very thing.

This is not an easy answer!
No one has the right to judge another person, much less their faith, but everyone is expected to love their neighbor as themselves.  Those of us who do love our neighbors as well as conform ourselves morally, do not want anyone to suffer for their sins.  This very perspective is precisely where the answer to our obligation lies. 

It isn’t enough to tell someone that they are wrong, because that approach presumes they simply didn’t know and in most cases they already know what traditional morally believes to be wrong.  Instead, this is heard as an insult to their intelligence.  Try telling someone who smokes to quit smoking simply because it is bad for their health and they will tell you, “It isn’t that simple,” and walk away so irritated by the obvious ignorance as to their real condition that it will actually cause the exact opposite effect.  As a former smoker I can testify to this very thing.  This is the last effect someone who truly cares desires to cause.  When it comes to helping our fallen brothers and sisters we need to be better than that, by taking into consideration what their circumstance might actually be that leads them to persist in their sins. 
Conversely, we cannot allow any appearance of justifiable cause to lead us to substantiate that rational.  Sin is, and will always be, sin.  No one has permission to sin.[3]  Rationalization is probably the most common error employed for justification by those who persist in their sins.  Do not be deceived by it. 

So the answer lies in simply having a genuine loving concern for them and expressing that concern in a loving way, while at the same time respecting the liberty of their free will and the possibility of their simply needing more time to be able to arrive at conformity concerning that specific sin.  Everyone grows at their own rate and arrives at maturity in their own time. 

·         I would begin by humbly inquiring if that person is aware of the severity of their sin.

·         If so, humbly ask if you can help in any way; and if not, offer to explain in the form of a question such as: “Would you like (or allow) me to explain it for you?”, and then afterwards ask if you can help.

·         If no help (or even explanation) is desired than express your loving concern and then walk away without saying, “I’ll pray for you,” unless they specifically ask for that.  This profession can be heard as contemptuous, and therefore extremely unproductive in the way of affecting a conversion within them.  Whether they ask or not, however, do PRAY FOR THEM. 

This is how we can apply the practice of our common priesthood and prophecy in Christ, which is obligatory for all those who are baptized.  Especially for those Catholics who have been fully sanctified;[4] for by becoming so they become fully capable of fulfilling this function within the Body of Christ.[5]
Come, let us all express our loving concern for our neighbors in the single most difficult, but also most important, way; by helping them come to the purity of faith that is able to live by Christ’s loving Spirit that never sins.

[1] Mk 1:15 “The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel.” 
[2] Rom. 6: 15-16 “What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?  Of course not!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
[3] Sir. 15:20 “No man does he command to sin, to none does he give strength for lies.”
[4] By receiving Baptism and Confirmation, along with regular participation in the Sacraments of Reconciliation as needed and The Eucharist as able, from the Catholic Church
[5] Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 11: “With the sacrament of confirmation they are bound more completely to the church; they are enriched by a special strength of the Holy Spirit, and in this way are under more pressing obligation to spread the faith by word and deed as true witnesses of Christ.”

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