September 10, 2023
by Mary Lee Brock
Creighton University's Graduate School
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

Praying Ordinary Time

An invitation to make the
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On this Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary time, we are invited to follow Christ through loving ourselves and one another.
In the first reading, God appoints Ezekiel, the son of man, as the watchman.  Ezekiel is tasked with warning others about their evil ways and trying to dissuade them from behavior that does not honor God.  Today we can look for ways to accept the role of the watchman through loving encouragement, teaching and living as Jesus has taught us.  Too often we let fear get in the way of supporting others when we worry that “this is not my business” or “who am I to interfere?”  If we can embrace a shared commitment to community, we can bring out the best in one another.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us of the powerful message of love.  The commandments are easy to follow if we love our neighbors.  Paul says: Love does no evil to the neighbor, hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.  One interpretation of this wisdom that has been helpful to me is a slight reframe to say: love your neighbor as you would want to be loved.  Reflecting upon how I would want to experience love from another takes me out of a space of focusing on myself and helps me focus on others with empathy and compassion.

One of the many gifts of scripture is the opportunity to pray with passages multiple times.  We had the opportunity to hear today’s gospel from Matthew about reconciliation just a few weeks ago and here are few excerpts from my reflection then:

Jesus teaches a simple model for conflict resolution.  He urges us to attempt to resolve the matter directly with the person with whom we are in conflict.  When this works out, it can be a very powerful and affirming experience for both people.  But as we know, it can be very difficult to approach someone with whom we disagree. 

Jesus goes on to give the sage advice of involving other people in the discussion to carefully listen to the perspectives in an effort to seek clarity.  Today, that person could be a good friend, a trusted boss or a professional mediator.  Unfortunately, we are often hesitant to involve others in a conflict as we (falsely) believe that not being able to work everything out ourselves is a sign of weakness.  How wonderful to hear that encouragement from Jesus to seek support in resolving our differences.  Yet, we must listen carefully to his words as Jesus wants us to take a prayerful stance when we approach the conflict.  This can be so difficult when we have been wounded by another and are fearful about the interaction.

Experiencing conflict can be such a lonely experience, but Jesus reminds us that we do not need to face the challenge alone as he is with us.  He tells the disciples: “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."

Today let us ask God for the courage and clarity to serve as a watchman.  Let us ask for the grace to view our neighbors with empathy and compassion.  Let us listen carefully for the voice of God with open hearts.  May we ask God for the gift of self-love so we can generously share that love with others, especially with those we find difficult to love.
 If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

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