Today the Lord reminds us we belong to one another, and we must be responsible for one another. This is the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Today in the gospel Jesus tells us how to act with a person who is doing wrong. [To see the words of the Gospel, click here.] Remember, in the very beginning of the Catholic Church, the number of people following Jesus was small. So one person acting badly in the small community hurt everyone. And if one person does something that separates him or her from the community, then the community wants to bring the person back. The group needed to stay together for their own strength, because the followers of Christ were few and weak; they needed to be strong; they needed support from one another. If someone does something wrong, how do you handle it? One person from the group would go and explain the right way to act and see if that can help the person to change. If the person refuses to listen, then Jesus says, “Send two or three people to go and talk with the person. And if that does not work, then ask the whole church community, a small community, to go and encourage the person to change, to come back into full union, full communion with the church community. If the person refuses, then let the person leave, exclude the person from the most important act of the community which is the Eucharist.” The fancy word for this is excommunication. The person is not able to receive Holy Communion, the Body of Jesus.
In the first reading from Ezekiel, [To see the words of the reading, click here.] God tells the prophet, “You must tell people to change their lives; you have to correct people, help people see their mistakes. Why? You are responsible for them. You have the responsibility to help them improve their lives, build them up, help them to see the wrong in their lives and help them to change. If you do not do it, you will be responsible for their punishment.”
We can influence people in a positive way or negative way. We can help them to become better people. Do not let them diminish themselves.
In the second reading from St Paul, [To see the words of St. Paul, click here.] he says, “All the rules, all the commandments are summed up in one word–love.” Love is not easy to define; it is not easy to explain. I want to give you one way of looking at love. It is not always warm feelings for another person; you may not like the person. Love means you want the best for the other person. You may not like that person; you may not feel very united to that person, but you have respect for that person, why? That person is a child of God; as you are a child of God and I am a child of God. God made that person; God keeps that person alive. God keeps you and me alive. God loves you and me and loves that person. So we need to see that other person as a child of God, a person God loves.
Then we can see that Jesus died on the cross for that person; as Jesus died on the cross for you and for me. Jesus loves that person so much, Jesus gave his life; as Jesus loves us enough to give his life for you and for me. So we also must understand that Jesus is his or her brother. Jesus is our brother. You must respect that person, want the best for that person.
Here in Mass we receive the Body of Jesus Christ. Jesus is in me; Jesus is in you. Jesus is in that person you may not like or respect. Because Jesus gives life to that person, we must want the best for that person.
The summary of all the readings is that we belong to one another. We are responsible for one another.
Let me end with a story:
A terrible thing happened to a girl walking one day. Some teenage boys came, grabbed her and dragged her off into the woods, shot her in the head and killed her. The police caught one of the boys. At trial they found him guilty of murder. The parents were there for the whole trial. At the end of the trial the father of the girl said something that surprised everyone. The father said, “I am going to go and visit that boy in prison. I do not know if I can forgive him, but I want to know him, because now both of us are tied together. We will always be tied together because of my daughter. I do not know if I can forgive him. But I need to know him so I can be healed. I need to be healed. And maybe he needs to be healed too. I need peace in my life. Knowing him, knowing his problems, maybe that will give me peace in my life.
The point of today’s readings is that we belong to one another. We need to be responsible for one another, care about one another, help one another as much as we possibly can. That is Jesus’s way. It is our way also, always.