Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sunday word, 04 September 2011

23d Sunday of the Year A (04Sep2011)

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—someone or something—you may feel, as I do, responsibility. It may be lighthearted as in a game such as Capture the Flag. It may be formal as in baby-sitting; or loving as in helping younger brothers and sisters. It may be serious as in a roadway flagger letting traffic flow alternately on a one-way road along which workers are aloft on power-lines or enduring searing heat radiating from its asphalt surface. When 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 appreciate their vocation as God’s people was prophetic: to attract and lead others to God. Jesus sharpened this prophetic vocation. 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 said earlier in his ministry that reconciliation was a matter of the heart before it was bureaucratic.

...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

Jesus’ words apply to disciples in each age. The church is a community of humans, giving the personal pride of place. Put another way, the church as institution desires the good of each person before itself.

In practice that means that to point out a fault does not seek to make the one who points better than the other, or to make the other feel all bad on account of one fault. 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 does the pointing! If entering more deeply into the heart of Jesus is not the result, then it is something other than Christian reconciliation.

Jesus cast this teaching to and for the church as personal: 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. When someone sins against you reveals the ongoing need for reconciling; when we do reconcile, its fruit is that we are more humane and human at the altar and everywhere.

The prophetic goal of both is to live ever more deeply in the heart of Jesus and as the heart of Jesus for the sake of our world. It is each Christian’s prophetic responsibility, one that is a life-giving joy. By it we embody Jesus’ attitude and help others to feel his attitude and embody it themselves.

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 you may hear Jesus clearly.
  • Praise Jesus for teaching you.
  • Speak to Jesus in your words about how you have been reconciled or about how you reconcile. Hold nothing back from Jesus as you speak to him.
  • 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.


1. Matthew 5. 23-24.


Wiki-images of a statue of Ezekiel and of a woodcut of Jesus teaching are in the public domain.

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