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ROUGH CUTS: How reconciliation may be attained

Today is Sunday, September 6, 2020. It is the first Sunday of the 9th month of the year. Today is also the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar.

This Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm is, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Today’s 1st Reading is from Ez 33:7-9.

Thus says the Lord: You, Son of Man, I have appointed a watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me saying, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.

The 2nd Reading of the day is from Rom 13:8-10. It says:

Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

This Sunday’s Gospel is from Mathew 18:15-20. It talks about Jesus’ teaching on fraternal correction.

Jesus said to his disciples: “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. Again, Amen, 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.”

Reflection on today’s Word of God:

The Gospel talks not only about “fraternal correction,” but beyond it…to win our brother/sister to the Lord, that is, to bring the person back to the community, the family, and the fold of Christ. The intention of Jesus is that “no one should be lost.” That is why, the attitude of Jesus towards sinners depicted in the Gospel is: first, to reach out; second, to open hearts to reconciliation; third, the Church as the go-between.

1. REACH OUT: Jesus takes the first initiative, the first step in the process of reconciliation. For though he had no sin, he entered into the world of sinners, so that we can be lifted up from our condition of sinfulness. Jesus’ attitude towards sinners is often contrary to the ordinary experience of people, where we expect those who have sinned against us or hurt us should take the first step. Feeling “righteous” we expect the other party to take the initiative, because we are the ones aggrieved or we are the victims. All of us are sinners… sometimes we are the source of hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness, which are the causes of division or breakup of relationships. Even the prophet Isaiah admits, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among the people of unclean lips (Is 6:5).

Yet, as brothers and sisters, we are responsible for each other, just like the prophet Ezequiel who was appointed watchman for the house of Israel… to speak against the wickedness happening in his country.

2. OPEN OUR HEARTS TO RECONCILIATION: Reconciliation can happen only if we open our hearts to our brothers/sisters who have erred or wronged us. Reconciliation is a two-way process, a dialogue. But it begins with HUMILITY, which is the opposite of PRIDE. Pride is the main hindrance to reconciliation, because it does not stoop down to understand the condition of the lowly ones (the sinners). Pride condemns. On the other hand, HUMILITY allows compassion and mercy to flow over, with the aim of “winning over our brothers/sisters” to the Lord…of bringing back the “black sheep” who have separated themselves from the community or the family.

3. THE CHURCH AS THE GO-BETWEEN: The Church is the last resort where one can find an impartial judgment without prejudice and bias, as long as the sinner asks for pardon and mercy in humility and contriteness of heart. The Church takes the role of the final arbiter where the wounded sinner can find healing and reconciliation. Pope Francis likens the Church to a “field hospital” where one can find first aid and rehabilitation while in the field of battle in this earthly life. The Church is sent not to condemn, but to give mercy and compassion, and at times to intercede on behalf of the sinners.

Jesus came to the world that we might have life, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him? (Jn 3:17). Every person is valuable in the eyes of the Lord. Christ offered himself as an expiation of sins, even dying for us sinners.

NB: Our heartfelt thanks to the St. Paul’s Publishing, Makati City, publisher of the book 365 Days with the Lord, a liturgical biblical diary from which we source the Word of God that we share with our fellow faithful every Sunday. This is our own little way of helping spread the Lord’s Gospel. — VNS

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