Sunday Scripture Readings

twenty-third sunday

in ordinary time,

september 8

Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 95;

Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

OUR GOOD NEWS: What is genuine, practical concern for each other? Instead of generalizing about love of neighbor, Jesus gets painfully specific (Gospel). We simply can't tolerate alienation and bad example within the Christian community and must spare no prudent effort to make things right again. Through baptism we assume serious responsibility for fellow believers. Equally unacceptable is withdrawing - pretending not to see, remaining uninvolved, keeping quiet, minding our own business - as well as playing the busybody, butting into others' lives where we don't belong. The situation Jesus envisioned is all too common in our modern world. A son or daughter, friend or acquaintance, relative, neighbor, even parent or teacher, does something wrong, whether sin of commission (doing) or omission (failing to do). Jesus' advice about our responsibility includes three stages. First, don't brood; it's unhealthy to keep the hurt to oneself and unloving not to show practical concern for another. Don't gossip either. Instead, go and confront the other with love, privately, out of respect for his or her reputation. If our love is truly selfless, we're willing to risk others' displeasures for their good. If the person refuses to admit wrong, continuing in behavior bad for him or herself as well as others, what then? This creates a problem, for example, among young persons whose friend steals or shoplifts, uses drugs or drinks excessively, hangs around with a bad crowd, plans to run away, or just "goofs off" in school. Jesus reminds us that keeping quiet out of a false sense of loyalty is really unloving and uncaring. His second step consists in bringing along someone else to emphasize the situation's gravity. Nowadays that means involving a qualified third party - counselor, teacher, priest or physician. Finally, when all else fails we shouldn't hesitate to "go public" and bring in the establishment - parents, school officials, even police. Jesus' final word of advice when nothing has worked is a hard saying but worth serious consideration. Sometimes our only option is tough love which demands confrontation and challenge, to the extreme of suspending friendship. Not only is the other's influence dangerous to oneself, but also destructive of community life. Temporary alienation alone may bring the erring person to repentance and change. In any case we treat them like "pagans" ("Gentiles"), persons not members of God's people, and public sinners ("tax collectors"), members who have turned traitor. For Matthew, this means care to avoid imitating their behavior rather than "shunning" (deliberate avoidance of all contact). Note, first, that reconciliation and forgiveness are the final goals of fraternal confrontation and admonition, not "making sinners pay" for their sin. Second, a priority goes to the erring member, not preserving at all cost the Church's reputation or its image as a "pure community." Quite the opposite: every obvious case of unrepented sin denies the Gospel's power and witnesses against the Church's mission of reconciling sinners to God and to the community. If necessary as a final step, excommunication should be carried out with genuine grief (1 Cor 5:2), not vindictive glee over another's "fall" or self-righteous pride.

A subscription is required to access this content.

Current online and print subscribers, click here to login and view this article.

Please click here to subscribe to the St. Louis Review. You may subscribe to the online edition only or both the online and print editions.

If you already have a subscription and are still unable to access this information, please contact the St. Louis Review.

Why does the St. Louis Review require a subscription to access content online? (Click to view).

No votes yet