23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Homily Cycle A - 2007-2008


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First Reading - Ezekiel 33:7-9

Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading - Romans 13:8-10
Gospel - Matthew 18:15-20

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.'  If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Again, I say to you, 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."

St. Matthew’s gospel indicates how we are to fulfill our responsibility to assist one whose way of life is running contrary to the gospel.  The process which St. Matthew describes has been labeled “Fraternal Correction.”  It is the antithesis of the common fault which we call “gossip,” or “speaking behind another persons’ back.”  One thing you can be sure of is that when we engage in “back-biting,” and “gossip,” we are not doing a favor to the person being criticized.


The “Fraternal Correction,” we are urged to exercise should be, first of all, “fraternal.”  That is, it should be motivated and expressed as an effort to love another as much as we love ourselves.  Carping criticism and/or vindictive confrontation fail to meet Jesus’ admonition;  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  The expression of personal concern and Christian love goes beyond personal likes and dislikes.  As Fr. Stan Krempa has noted: “Christian love is not a feeling or an emotion, but a responsibility.  The greatest harm we can do to people when they face spiritual danger is to do nothing and just look the other way” (in Captured Fire, Cycle A. pp. 123).


“If you do not speak out to dissuade the (wrong-doer) from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. . .” (Ezekiel 33).


In today’s reading from the prophet Ezekiel, and in Matthew’s gospel, we are presented with two aspects of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as (you love) yourself.”  The first aspect is that as sisters and brothers in the Lord, we have a responsibility to promote the spiritual well-being of one another.  This responsibility applies not only to those who are making positive efforts as leading a Christian lifestyle.  Today’s readings tell us that this responsibility is especially pertinent when someone is living in ways that are contrary to Christ’s gospel.  This is not any easy task, because it “goes against the grain of… not wanting to get involved in the lives of others.” (Fr. Stan Krempa, pp. 121).  Contemporary society’s advice is that we ought not to impose our values on others.  “Each individual is free,” the saying goes, “to be and to do whatever she or he feels like.” (Wm. Maestri, pp. 95)  “This is tragically false.” (Ibid)  We have a moral responsibility to speak out in favor of truth and goodness in society; and we have, as noted, the responsibility to promote the spiritual well-being of one another.


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