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WHO IS BEING FOOLED? A reflection for the 23rd Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sun, 06 Sep 2020

    Readings: Ezk 33:7-9; Rm 3:8-10; Mtt 18:15-20

      Today, what we hear from the readings call our attention to some facts of life. That is individual or personal life, and the life of a Community. The “Community” in our minds now includes the gathering of God’s people: Believers. Our awareness is this: Misunderstandings occur, and divisions arise even where two or three gather in God’s name. How do we deal with our misapprehensions as Church?

     We live in the same environment. We face equal justice of the civil and legal system. But we have not said it all. There is something more: As humans, we are first and foremost, religious by our nature. In a basic sense, we have openness to “spiritual” convictions. I use “spiritual” in quotes because even those that choose not to believe in God have idols that they prefer. We, however, are Christians, and we embrace the Christian spiritual life at the innermost recesses of our being. The reading today says there are consequences to real faith.

    God addresses his word to the human person as both a reminder and an invitation to our religious nature. God will not speak to us if God’s capacity or likeness is absent in us. Language, in its pure sense, communicates identity and similarity. Hearing, willing, choosing, and doing are spiritual faculties, and God is Spirit. It, therefore, demands understanding when the prophetic word of God warns the wicked to renounce the ways of evil, change, and follow the right path. It is a painful thing to press it upon oneself, the reality that death is unpredictable. It is even more distressing to face the spiritual truth that one could die in sin. But if God’s will is to afflict the wicked sinner with the unpredictable death or such damnation, why does God task the prophet to warn?  It is not clear to us that God desires all to be saved?

   How does today’s Gospel present Jesus’s presence in the Community? Is Jesus surprised that issues of misunderstanding could arise? If so, why remind us of such a thing as a brother or sister “having something wrong” against you?  We have all known that these sorts of things happen! We see it now that even where two or three gather to the praise of God. The Lord recommends a process of reconciliation wholly sustainable within the faith Community. He reminds us how delicate and sensitive it is: (1) to have the courage to relate to a brother or sister who is hurting, (2) to seek an avenue for dialogue, and (3) to consider and accept the offer of reconciliation within Community through its leaders (Heb 13:7). Not even a hurting Christian may degenerate to the level of a “refusal” to give or receive forgiveness. That is like a red line to our faith in Christ.

  We are all saved by His mercy. We are to face us the question with which Jesus pricks out minds today: That is, why must the issues that attempt to divide us be allowed to reach such a point where a Christian  “refuses to listen to the Community”?  Does the Community speak with one voice, or is it whatever any member decided for themselves in their circumstances? Is it still a Community of faith if a treatment to “a pagan” or “a tax collector” would become excusable, desirable, or preferrable for the believer?  How fashionable is it today that many are forgetting that God has forgiven us in Christ? Or that Christ died for us all while we were still sinners? Even in the retributive justice of the old law (an eye for an eye), one “hating” one’s brother or sister “from the heart” loses every support or justification for the retribution (Lev 19:17).

   Hatred of a fellow brother or sister “from the heart” is the bad debt forbidden in today’s second reading. We must avoid this. It is the arrogance that denies us the empathy or mercy we need when we offend others. Those who claim membership of the Christian Community and still demand a “pound of flesh” fail pitiably in the most basic demand of their faith. They turn the Lord’s prayer into a mirage for themselves and others. If you are attaching conditions to your mercy, how dare you say “as we forgive those who trespass against us”? Who is being fooled?


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