Ordinary Time: September 7th
Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
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"Amen, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt 18:19-20)."
The first reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel 33:7-9. The vocation of a prophet, as envisioned in terms of Ezekiel's oracles, is to judge the evil and the wicked and to dissuade them from their ways. The prophet has the responsibility of announcing the judgment of God, not his own judgment, and non-fulfillment of preaching the message of God involves death for the prophet, whereas he will save his life if he is faithful to the message given to him to preach. — Excerpted from A Celebrants Guide to the New Sacramentary - A Cycle by Kevin W. Irwin
The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 13:8-10. In the first seven verses of this chapter St. Paul urged the Christian converts of Rome to obey all lawful civil authority. He now turns to the obligation each Christian has of loving his neighbor. — Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.
The Gospel is from St. Matthew 18:15-20. Unfortunately, there are far too many Christians today who pay no heed to the serious obligation of encouraging an erring brother to give up his sinful ways. They shrug it off by saying : "I have more than enough to do to keep myself from sin" or "am I my brother's keeper"? The answer is in this lesson we have just read. We are our brothers' keepers, and even if we have many temptations and inclinations to sin we shall not overcome them if we have no time to think of our neighbors' need.
There are, alas, millions of lapsed or luke-warm Christians who could and would have been active members of Christ's mystical body if their neighbors had fulfilled this grave obligation which Christ has imposed on us all. They are now a source of scandal to the weaker and youthful members of the Church, and an impediment to the possible acceptance of the faith by non-Christians. Would the Reformation, which has caused whole countries of the western world to lose almost all faith in Christ and indeed in God, have had such disastrous effects, if those who remained within the Church had put this law of fraternal charity into practice? However, it is no use crying over spilt milk! Let us see our present-day obligations and what we are doing to help our neighbors retain their Christian faith and practice. How much of the indifference to religion which the youth of today seems to be showing is due to lack of parental control and example? How many children of Christian families grow up as practical pagans because their Christian faith meant little or nothing to their parents? It is in the home that the religion of the next generation is firmly established or lost. When parents are loyal to their faith in their daily lives, their children will, as a rule, be loyal to it too; where parents are careless and lax their children will be still more careless and more lax.
Parents! the first neighbors and fellow Christians whom you must kindly and charitably correct are your own children. Their future salvation and your own too will depend on how well you fulfill this obligation. Parents who are obedient to Christ in this will find time and many opportunities to have a charitable word of help for an erring neighbor outside their household. On the other hand, the lax parents, who give little or no thought to getting to heaven or to their children getting there in God's good time, will hardly bother with their neighbor's salvation. Thus this cancer of infidelity and irreligion grows and spreads.
Let each one of us look into his past conduct in relation to this law of charity. Have we really tried to help our fellowmen on the road to heaven? Have we given them the good example of a truly Christian way of living? Have we offered advice and encouragement when it was needed, and correction in private where that was possible? If so "we have gained our brother." We have brought a prodigal son back to a loving Father and that loving Father will repay us a hundred-fold in this life and especially in the next.
Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.