TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

One of the most difficult things in life is correcting another person. Yes, there are people who seem always to be correcting others—but that type of person rarely has any  lasting success. What the Lord God wants from us is to find ways to draw others to HIM, the Lord God, by the way of correction. That is a divine task.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Ezekiel. He was told by the Lord to correct others—and he did not want to do it. God told him bluntly: if you do not tell others their faults, then you are responsible for their deaths. This is really strong language—and yet so needed today. None of us wants to tell others their faults or that what they are doing is against what God asks us to do! For instance, if we are speaking to a young couple that is living together and not married in the Church—who wants to say that out loud? And there are so many situations like that in the area of sexual morality. Our Church teaches clearly that sexual activity between two people is only moral when that activity is between a  an and a woman who are married in the Church. Clearly our culture and even many of us Catholics are not comfortable saying that out loud today.

But it is not only sexual morality that is a challenge today. We have challenges in the way we treat immigrants, challenges in the way that businesses make profits, challenges in our desires for money and power, and etc. We have developed, however, a “live and let live” morality by which we can avoid any conflicts but also avoid talking about what is right and what is wrong.

In the second reading from the Letter to the Romans we hear that love is the fulfillment of the law. Yet today we often think of love as simply feeling good about one another. Love is lived today very much as a “live and let live” kind of way. Hardly anyone of us would think of a Prophet saying difficult things as a loving person. Even modern prophets can say harsh and difficult things, but we rarely think of them as “loving.” Instead, we are careful to think of them as prophet and not as people of love.

The readings today are so clear in this teaching: if you do not correct those in error, you cannot be loving them. Parents often correct their small children almost automatically and know that it is a loving thing to do. Once a child gets older, parents have to make a choice to correct their children, especially when they know that the child will not accept correction easily. And when we are in the presence of adults, we often tell ourselves that it is not our duty to correct anyone!

So we come to today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew. The passage we have today is all about how to deal with a neighbor who has wronged us. But we can also look at this from the other side where we are the one wronging someone else. It works both ways. The challenge is: how to bring about reconciliation with a deep awareness of the truth of the situation. All of us must learn that we offend others at times, that we misjudge others at times, that we take advantage of others at times. If we can come to recognize our own brokenness and lack of love towards others, then we will find it much easier to deal with the brokenness and lack of love in others.

Our first challenge today is to accept that we are broken and need correction. Only within that context can we see God’s love. Then in God’s love we might be able to speak the truth to our own culture and to others in our lives.