Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP (Biblical Readings follow at the end of the homily.)

Long before Freud, Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences and Psychology, there was the Bible with precepts and laws to govern human behavior.  Evidently, we humans think of anything and everything and thus required mandates and prohibitions from on high: Do this, don’t do that!  Then, as now, guidelines remain essential for humanity’s survival.  God mandates that we all get along. 

Moreover, our Covenant with God insists we have a future to build, goals to achieve. From the beginning, God, in God’s infinite Wisdom, desired human participation in building an earthly kingdom to prepare every person for heaven.  Whether we like it or not, Cooperation with God and Reverence for all God’s creation –people, animals, nature, things– have been, and always will be, part of God’s plan. 

The Signs of our Times demand this.  We can no longer perpetuate the sins of our ancestors. Nor can we afford to succumb to neglect of vital issues they ignored. We were baptized into “kingdom building:” Each of us destined to make our mark advancing equality, justice with mercy.  Our Eucharistic Spirituality insists “everyone belongs,” everyone is respected.  Cultures may separate us.  Economies and politics divide us. But Jesus unites us.  Remember, Our Savior never accepted the status quo, never defaulted to convenience and comfort when improvements could be made.  He insisted on new wine poured into new wineskins, knowing full well that, without his help, our fallible nature will keep us cultivating the old.

Yes, Jesus acquainted Himself with temptation for our sake. He understood the allures of self-aggrandizement, and one-upmanship.  He knew well that we prefer comfort and security at the expense of integrity and hope.  He knew we would sin; He knew we cause harm to ourselves and others. Therefore, he insisted that we reconcile with one another—never lording another’s faults or flaws or wickedness over him or her, but instead,  acknowledging our own temptations as we strive to  reconcile wrongdoers to the better way: the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes.  These are our litmus tests for our behavior and everyone else’s.  We must hold ourselves and others accountable if we are ever to move forward to a true communion of Saints.  But we must not be “holier than thou” for    condescension and condemnation never win over anyone.

Today’s Readings remind us we are to warn the wicked to turn from evil ways while making every effort not to become wicked ourselves.  Who among us has not been betrayed?  Who hasn’t been put down, scorned, unforgiven?  Whose most cherished beliefs and values have not been dismissed or scorned? Evil beckons whenever these affronts occur. We must remember what Jesus knew 2,000 years ago:   Because everyone suffers, deal with the suffering others cause by addressing one problem at a time, one person at a time.   That is the most humbling approach; only true humility will work things out.

Naturally, it is easier to be humble with people we know and love.  When we witness wrongdoing, when we or others we care about get hurt, we usually need to vent first –expunge the anger, the outrage, the hurt so that we may cool off.  It is fitting, then, to vent to God and to loved ones before we address our offenders.  Still, we are obliged to let them know not only that the Church expect better of them, but that we know they are capable of better behavior.  Trusting in another person’s better self is the way to broach wrongdoing.  As disciples In Christ, it is the only way.

Of course, when dealing with people we do not love, Jesus’ prescription is next to impossible to follow on our own.  It is especially difficult with people who have authority over us -a manager, a boss, a benefactor.  In fairness, if we do not feel safe –-emotionally or physically, one-on-one reconciliation can be unworkable without the help of others.  Thankfully, Jesus says, “take one or two along with you.”  Thank God those folks are in our lives!  But even then, the step we often miss, or refuse to take, before we attempt to reconcile is prayer—praying alone and with those who support us. Prayer will fortify us to move forward. Notice how Jesus’ precept on reconciliation concludes with his insistence on prayer.     

Prayer will prepare us to handle uncontrite offenders by placing us in solidarity with Jesus on the cross, who, out of compassion, forgave the unrepentant. And although we may need to start with “pity,” (the lesser cousin of compassion), prayer, and perseverance in prayer, will, in time, move pity to empathy. For isn’t it sad when we are, or anyone is, mean?  Isn’t it a shame that people can choose to hurt, to offend, cause harm to any person, to any animal, to anything on which goodness, truth and health depend?  Isn’t it a pity when we denigrate our being made-in-God’s-image by clinging so tightly to the past that we refuse to move forward to advance human destiny toward the Kingdom of God?

Pity may be the pivotal point of redemption for reconciliation and getting along. Was not compassion for sinners the reason for Jesus’ incarnation?  We must cultivate a daily consciousness that we are always in need of a Savior and embrace the Thanksgiving in this and every Eucharist.   Without Jesus, we have no true humility. Without humility we find little recourse to prayer. Without prayer, we have little pity for the sinner—be it our own sins or anyone else’s.  So, let us pray:  

“For every person our lives have touched, for every person whose life has touched ours, for good and for ill, whether known or unknown to us, Lord, have pity!  Strengthen the gifts of Your Holy Spirt in us.  Nurture us in patience and humility that inspire reconciliation, and sustain us in faith, hope, and love.  Let Your Kingdom come.”

Lectionary: 127

Reading 1

EZ 33:7-9

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, 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.

Responsorial Psalm

PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2

ROM 13:8-10

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 commandment 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.

Alleluia

2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

MT 18:15-20

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,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed 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.”

2 thoughts on “Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

  1. Fr. James this spoke straight to the heart of me. Thank you so much. Once again you are there for me in my time of need. The Holy Spirit surely works through you.

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