September 6, 2020
by Rev. Richard Gabuzda
The Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 127

Ezekiel 33:7-9
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Romans 13:8-10
Matthew 18:15-20

Praying Ordinary Time

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The Measure of Love

Perhaps we can best appreciate today’s gospel passage by recalling that it is immediately preceded by the parable of the lost sheep.  In that passage, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes in search of the one stray sheep, so much does he value that lost sheep. 

Today’s message about a sin committed by a brother, is not intended to provide an outline for an increasingly intense juridical procedure whose intention is to get a person to admit that he’s wrong so that he can be punished.  It is an exercise of love for the brother who is a sinner, a lost sheep.  Love, which knows no limits, moves one to do whatever can be done to bring back the brother from a place of serious sin to the joy of repentance.  The increasing intensity—from a one-on-one conversation to a small group to “the Church” to pointing out that the sin has broken the person’s relationships with the Body—only illustrates the depth of love one ought to have for the sinner.  His very life is a stake—do all that you can to persuade him to return and, if needed, enlist the help of others to do so!

When we have been hurt, seriously hurt by another, the sting tends to propel us toward seeking some form of revenge or making the offender hurt in some way.  But the gospel proposes love as a remedy. 

In the culture in which we live, we seem to vacillate between two extremes.  On the one hand we hear voices constantly shouting on social media, broadcasting someone’s faults to a wide audience.  On the other hand, many of us revert to a complete withdrawal from pointing out faults, usually with “who am I to judge?” as our justification.  It seems that on both ends, the focus remains on “me,” rather than on love for a person who sins. 

In the face of someone who is in serious sin, we are called to go against the tendency to think only of ourselves and, instead, to pray for the grace to love the sinner, to see in him or her the lost sheep.  Then, moved by love, we ask for the grace to do whatever it takes to bring the sinner to repentance. 

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