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God's Word on Sunday: Healing, conversion come with Lord’s presence

  • August 30, 2020

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Sept. 6 (Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 95; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20)

Correcting or admonishing other people is a perilous undertaking. It should be done sparingly and with the utmost care and sensitivity.

It is far too easy to use correction as a way of controlling others and breaking their spirits. There are countless examples of this in totalitarian and theocratic regimes or authoritarian organizations.

Unfortunately, there are those who see the correction of others as their special life mission. In the Gospels, Jesus warns us about pointing out the faults of others while we are guiltier of even greater things. He counsels His followers to clean their own house first before they dare to correct another person.

The example we see in Ezekiel cannot be used as a model, for Ezekiel alone was given this mission of “warner” by God. In fact, that was the chief role of the prophets of Israel — to shock people and lead them back to God’s path. Ezekiel’s job was to get the entire nation back on the right track by returning to the ways of God.

We would also question (hopefully) whether God causes the death of sinners. That is not our current vision or experience of God. We no longer have officially anointed prophets, but prophets need not be bearded, wild-eyed individuals thundering doom and gloom. Warnings can come from many quarters — reformers, movements, scientists and concerned individuals.

In our own time, voices and questions have been raised regarding racism and social injustice. There have been numerous concerned and prophetic voices warning of environmental dangers and climate change. Unfortunately, many of these warnings fall on deaf ears. The cautions surrounding the COVID crisis have been and still are ignored by too many. In the end, we all pay a price. So much suffering could be avoided if we were open to criticism and change, as well as being more committed to the common good.

The most eloquent and profound theology is often the briefest and simplest. Love was the core of the spirituality and theology of the Old Testament, and as a Jewish teacher, Jesus gave it fresh emphasis for His followers. Paul expressed this by insisting that love is the fulfillment of the law. In this context, love is practical, dealing with all aspects of everyday life. Love does no harm to another. The commandments and the laws by which the Israelites lived forbade harming another in any way. Rules and laws are mere expressions of this fundamental principle. Everyday moral discernment is not overly difficult. We always ask ourselves if our words or deeds will harm or injure another, ourselves or the common good in any way. Loving is not sentimental — it is how we treat other people and the gifts of God.

Matthew presents an ideal picture of Christian correction in a communal setting, but several things need to be kept in mind. First, this community was small, tightknit and very committed to conversion of life and spiritual growth. Second, the trust level was very high. There must be a high level of trust and mutuality for this sort of intervention to be effective. Its members looked upon one another as family. Finally, those correcting others must also be willing to be corrected in return. Often this is not the case. We should ask ourselves if we really understand the person or situation. A bit of compassionate listening might disclose some difficult burdens the person is bearing. Related to this is whether we are the one to correct them. They might not be able to hear it from us — another person might be more effective.

The point of the teaching is that we should not act out resentments and anger on others, nor should we bury them within to simmer and poison our hearts. The intentional community is where these problems should be met and put to rest. Better to deal with our issues while on Earth, for we cannot enter God’s presence dragging a burden of negativity and unforgiveness behind us.

Jesus concluded His teaching with an assurance that where two or more were gathered in His name, He would be present. That is important — our dealings with one another should always be with the awareness of the presence of the Lord. Only then will there be genuine healing and conversion.

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I have read your article *So That God may be all on All* I found it very helpful and Spirit inspiring..
May God in Christ continue to bless you with his Spirit ..
Thank you ?

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