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(Sunday XXIII – OT A) Reconciliation and Restoring Justice

Submitted by on Saturday, 3 September 2011No Comment

ezekiel-cr

Today’s Readings

  • Reading I:  Ezekiel 33:7-9
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95
  • Reading II: Romans 13:8-10
  • Gospel Reading: Matthew 18:15-20

Process of Reconciliation

The Gospel selection from Matthew 18:15-20 is about the restoration of justice in a relationship marred by sin and reconciliation. In contrast to the usual Jewish practise of bringing an offender before the judgment of the elders, Jesus marks out three steps. The first step is what we now call fraternal correction. The process of reconciliation ends here if the offender allows himself to be corrected. If not, witnesses are called in to help in the process. Only if the process bogs down on the second step is reconciliation raised to the level of the Church. When the offender continues to harden his heart against the invitation to reconciliation, then Jesus says: "Treat them as if he is a pagan or a tax collector."

The responsorial psalm taken from Psalm 95 is an invitation to heed the Word of God. "If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts." If those corrected would be reconciled, they should listen to fraternal correction as if uttered by a prophet.

Love and Attention

community

The liturgy combines Matthew 18:15-20 with the commissioning of Ezekiel as "watchman" of Israel. The watchman stands on a tower to guard a city from invasion. It is he who sounds the alarm when danger from invaders become obvious. As Israel’s watchman, Ezekiel’s task is to warn those who are in danger of incurring God’s punishment. If he changes, then he is saved. Fraternal correction is like the warning given by a prophet. It is a warning given as part of an offer for salvation.

In the second reading, a selection from Paul’s letter to the Romans puts fraternal correction in the context of love. Nothing should be owed to another except the debt of love. Fraternal correction seen this way becomes an act of charity.

Until this point, we have considered fraternal correction from the point of view of the one being corrected. The gospel reading is actually an instruction to the one offended by the sin of another. It is he who initiates the process of reconciliation. It is he who should by his actions begin the process of restoring justice to a broken relationship. From this point of view, the one who makes the fraternal correction must bear in mind all the other words that Jesus has spoken about judging others and about anger and revenge. Even the parable of the wheat and the tares has some relevance here understood as sin lurking even in our good intentions. Or as the Joyful Papist would put it:

This is what St. Thomas warns us against, and for good reason. It is the obligation of anyone who corrects their brother to make sure that they’re actually doing good to the other person. It’s very easy to tell ourselves that we’re in the right, and that we’re acting out of love, when in fact our motives are much murkier. Perhaps we are angry at the other person, or feel hurt by their choices. Maybe we’re embarrassed (what will the neighbours think?), or want to establish ourselves in a position of moral superiority. Often these things influence our attempts at correction without us even being aware of them, which is why it’s so important to pay attention to the other person. If you fix your eyes on the person you love, not only will you be able to correct for the sins and failings that you bring to the discussion, you will also be less likely to fall into them. You will see what does good, and what does harm, and you will be able to correct yourself, improve your methods, and, if all goes well, eventually find ways of conducting a dialogue that is genuinely fruitful and edifying.

More here…

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Ezekiel 33:7-9
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
7So thou, O son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and shalt tell it them from me.
8When I say to the wicked: O wicked man, thou shalt surely die: if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked man from his way: that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand.
9But if thou tell the wicked man, that he may be converted from his ways, and he be not converted from his way: he shall die in his iniquity: but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Romans 13:8-10
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
8Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour, hath fulfilled the law.
9For Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not covet: and if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this word, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10The love of our neighbour worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.
Matthew 18:15-20
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
15But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.
16And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.
17And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.
18Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.
19Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.
20For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Matthew 18:15-20
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
15But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.
16And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.
17And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.
18Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.
19Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.
20For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Matthew 18:15-20
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
15But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.
16And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.
17And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.
18Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.
19Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.
20For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

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