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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Ezekiel 33:7-9
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 (8)
Romans 13:8-10
Matthew 18:15-20
September 6, 2020

Today we hear about how God calls us to respond to sin. 

The first reading is sometimes known as the Parable of the Watchman.  A watchman was assigned as a lookout to watch for danger.  If he saw danger coming, the watchman was to alert the people to the coming danger. 

The Lord speaks of how He appointed Ezekiel as a watchman for the house of Israel to warn them of their sins.  Unfortunately, not everyone would listen.  Some will harden their hearts against the Lord’s voice.  That is their choice.  The Lord says such people will die for their guilt.  What He says to Ezekiel as watchman, and what we need to think about, is that we do not speak up for what is right, we will be held responsible for our omission.  However, as long as we speak up for what is right, even if the person refuses to listen, we will be saved. 

It is their choice to sin or not.  What we do when we speak up is to help them know what their choices are.  If they don’t know God’s way, they are not free to make a choice.

We seek to trust in God.  We kneel before him who made us.

Yet, at times we do sin.  How are we to respond when someone does sin?

Jesus gives us the answer in today’s gospel.  He describes the first step, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

We are to start one-on-one.  It is sometimes the case that the person doesn’t realize what they have done or how it may have hurt us.  As soon as they do, they are sorry, and we can forgive them.  There is always the possibility we misinterpreted their actions.  In either case, there is no need to involve other people. 

If they do not listen, then Jesus says, “take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  We still keep it small.  Here, I think we need to reflect on what our goal is.

Do we see the point of two or three witnesses as to prove we are “in the right”?  As Jesus says, it is important to establish the facts but with what goal?  We need to make sure we are right but the goal is not to prove ourselves right. 

The goal that Jesus is guiding us towards is the conversion of the person who has sinned.  Our goal is to help them see the error of ways so that they will change.  Our motivation is not to be right ourselves.  Our motivation is love.

If the person does not listen, step three is to tell the church.  This is again rooted in the conversion of the sinner, to help them realize this is not just the opinion of one individual with two or three witnesses.  It is what God teaches through his church.

If the person still does not listen, step four is to “treat him as you would a Gentile or tax collector.”  What does that mean?  Many of the Jews would have taken this to mean to shun them, to not eat or drink with them.  That’s how the Jews treated sinners.  However, what did Jesus do with sinners? 

He ate with them.

He did not ignore their sins.  What did He say to the woman caught in adultery?  “Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:11).  He does not condemn her but he does call her to change her ways.  Why?  Because He loved her.

Today we hear people speak of “tolerance” and not judging.  Jesus tells us to stop judging.  However, when done out of love, pointing out one’s sins doesn’t have to mean we are judging them.  We hate the sin but we love the sinner.  We speak out of mercy.

We learn of the Corporal Works of Mercy from Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46.  We are to feed the hungry and clothe the sick as some of these corporal acts.

Are you aware that there are also Spiritual Works of Mercy? 

The third spiritual work of mercy is to admonish the sinner.  One might see the word “admonish” as harsh but it should not be.  It is an act of mercy because we care about the person.  We want them to see the error of their ways so they too can be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom. 

To help put it into perspective, as much as admonishing the sinner is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, so too is “forgiving injuries.”  Before we admonish one who has wronged us, we need to be willing to forgive them.

We do all this in love for, as Paul says, “for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Has someone wronged you?  Before you rush to judge, ask yourself what Jesus wants you to do.  Is He calling you to speak up?  If so, ask the Holy Spirit for the right words so your words and actions are rooted in God’s love.

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