Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday word, 07 Sep 2008

23d Sunday of the Year A (07Sep2008)
Ezk 33. 7-9; Ps 95; Rm 13. 8-10; Mt 18. 15-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Need and Fruit

When it is our turn to watch--for someone or something--if you are like me, you probably feel responsibility. It may be lighthearted as in a game such as Capture the Flag. It may be formal as in babysitting or loving as in taking care of younger brothers and sisters. It may be serious as in a roadway flagman letting traffic flow alternately on a one-way road along which workers are aloft on power-lines. However we are vigilant, responsibility describes us.

Prophet Ezekiel was aware that God had given him the responsibility, the mission, to watch for the house of Israel. Ezekiel was responsible to announce to them what would deepen their love and quicken their response to the God of the covenant. If the prophet announced and warned and others paid no attention, God would call them to account. If the prophet shirked his responsibility, God would hold the prophet accountable for the people’s failing.

This mission of the prophet gave believers in the God of Abraham new insight into personal responsibility. It helped them to appreciate their vocation as God’s people was prophetic, to attract and lead others to God.

Jesus sharpened this prophetic focus. He formed and sent his disciples to continue his work of announcing the reign of God, which continues dawning in our world. Jesus deepened and personalized this responsibility: Jesus established the norm of negotiations and reconciliations to be personal before they became communal or bureaucratic.
If [a member of the community] sins against you, go and discuss the fault between the two of you. If [the person] listens to you, you have won over your brother [or sister].
Jesus had earlier in his ministry said that reconciliation was a matter of the heart before it was bureaucratic.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother [or sister in faith] has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother [or sister in faith], and then come and offer your gift./1/
The purpose of pointing out a fault was and is to lead people more deeply into the heart of Jesus and of his community of faith, the church. That includes the one who is doing the pointing! If entering more deeply into the heart of Jesus is not the result, then it is something other than Christian reconciliation.

Jesus embraced this teaching to and for the church with another: where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Together, his first and second teaching bookend his words about our mission of reconciliation. I call the first bookend the need for reconciliation; I call the second the fruit of reconciliation. The prophetic goal of both is to live more deeply in the heart of Jesus and as the heart of Jesus for the sake of our world. That is each Christian’s prophetic responsibility, one that is both crucial and a joy.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the presence of the Trinity, aware of the Trinity creating you in reconciling love. Ask the disciples listening to Jesus to welcome you in their circle so that you may hear Jesus clearly. Praise Jesus for teaching you. Speak to Jesus in your own words about how you have been reconciled or about how you reconcile. Hold nothing back from Jesus as speak to him. Then, close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It keeps us vigilant and prophetic as it reminds us that God forgives us as we forgive others.

Link to the spiritual exercise for this homily.
1. Matthew 5.23-24.
Wiki-images of Ezekiel and of Christ, the Teacher, are in the public domain.

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