23 Sunday of Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 33: 7 – 9; Ps 95; Romans 13: 8 – 10; Matthew 18: 15 – 20
The most sacred time of our journey of faith as Catholics is this moment as we gather to celebrate and participate in this Holy Eucharist the life, death, resurrection and glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this holy ritual we profess our Baptismal identity – we are sons and daughters of our Father in the Lord Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the course of this Mass we celebrate in an extremely personal and profoundly intimate way our identity before God. The minister of the Eucharist presents the Sacred Host and the Consecrated Wine and addresses each one personally – “The Body of Christ”….”The Blood of Christ” – and there is the personal response “Amen.” An exchange of a few words that sums up the great mystery of the Lord’s Presence – Real Presence – not an empty symbol – one word “Amen” – a confession of belief that proclaims “Yes, Lord Jesus, You are here, really present to me” and “Yes, Lord, I am really in You – I am joined to Your Body, the Church.”
And there is more. Each one of us receiving the Holy Eucharist is joined to all the others who receive the Lord – each one of us is in the Body of Christ and therefore, my life as a Catholic is never a private matter. As men and women of faith we do not live in isolation from one another; I can regard my faith life as something between me and God and no one else – but that is not the truth of our faith. Me and God is very convenient, really very selfish and it is a denial of being in the Body of Christ, the Church. No matter how pious, how constant such a life is, it is an aberration of true belief.
What does all this have to do with the message of the Sacred Scriptures for today’s Mass? In each one, Ezekiel, Romans and Matthew, we are reminded, more than that, we are called to live in a relationship, a communion of faith and love with others, especially those in the Body of Christ.
Ezekiel is charged by God with a responsibility to be concerned for the salvation of someone who has sinned – to speak out, to dissuade the wicked from his way.
St. Matthew records Jesus’ admonition: “If your brother, your sister sins against you, go” and speak to the individual privately so there is reconciliation, peace between you…if that doesn’t work, we heard the process Jesus advises.
St. Paul puts it this way, “Owe nothing to anyone (notice “anyone”) except to love one another…love is the fulfillment of the law.” Those last words challenge us to the core; notice: he does not say that going to Mass, receiving Holy Communion, saying prayers, etc. is the fulfillment of the law – rather LOVE IS! But such love is the fruit, the effect of Mass, Holy Communion, prayer. Such love can only come from a living relationship with our Lord. It exceeds sentiment, nice feelings.
“Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” St. Paul’s command should make us a bit uncomfortable – and this is not bad at all – it can shake up complacency if it exists – it can lead us to listen – to learn – to desire to live our part in the Body of Christ with sincerity, with gratitude. I recently came upon this insight: “The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith.” Jesus put it this way: “Whatever you do to another, you do to Me!”
As the Body of Christ, we are not perfect, complete – we fail – who doesn’t! Our journey of following Christ is more of desire than achievement. What is important, essential is that we try to love and in our trying, we are truly men and women in the Body of Christ.
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