23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

23A   Ezekiel 33:7-9.   Yahweh holds Ezekiel responsible for warning the wicked to the impending danger like the watchman warning the citizens of dangers that he sees approaching.  If Ezekiel fails to issue the warning and the wicked continue in their ways, then both shall be lost; but, if he does warn them, even if the wicked remain wicked, Ezekiel shall not be held responsible.  This theme of having a reasonable sense of responsibility for one another because God demands this of us is continued in the other two readings.

Matthew 18:15-20.  Jesus requires that the church community he is establishing has a system of familial correction to deal with sinfulness in its midst so to maintain a necessary level of spiritual integrity.  First, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”  The church that Jesus desires to establish should be like a family relationship with God as our Father.  The binding force in the church relationship should be our caring for one another in Christ.  After a continuing effort at reconciliation that spirals out like concentric circles including more and more people that calls the sinner to reform and yet the sinner refuses to reform, the sinner must be excommunicated from the church community.  In Jewish terms that meant to treat the sinner as one would a Gentile or a tax collector who were outside the Jewish community.  The Christian church community that Jesus seeks to establish has the right and responsibility to maintain its spiritual integrity that distinguishes it from the world outside of itself and so he said, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  In other words, Jesus endorses the church community’s decision.

Continuing in that same line of standing with the church community’s decisions, Jesus says, “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.”  The phrase ‘in my name’ means that we come together under God’s authority and in accord with his will.  “There I am in the midst of them” should be understood to mean that the church community sees itself as an instrument to accomplish God’s will and not its own will apart from God or that God is obedient to the church community’s will.  “All things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:18c)  Now that we have God in our midst there is no longer any need for an Old Testament law.  God is the center of the Church’s life.  We do all through him, with him and in him.

Romans 13:8-10.  Fulfillment of the law by loving one another is the lesson of this second reading.  The measure of how much we love others as the measure by which we love ourselves (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.) is made obsolete by the measure of love by which God loves us in his Passion and Death.  Jesus tells us in John 14:34, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved, so you also should love one another.”  God’s love is the measure by which we should measure our love.  “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)