23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time A
September 3, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Introduction: This Sunday we hear from the fourth of Jesus’ discourses
in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew has five discourses. We have already
heard from the Sermon on the Mount chs. 5-7; The Mission discourse in
chapter 10; the Parable Discourse in chapter 13. Today we jump to the
18th chapter. This is the fourth discourse. This chapter has been
titled in various ways: Ellis: Discourse to the Community; Obach, Kirk:
Fourth Discourse: On the Life of the Ecclesial Community with Emphasis
on the use of Authority; _Senior: Discourse on Life in the Community of _
_Jesus; Harrington: Advice to a Divided Community; Meyer: Church Life and
Order; RNAB: Church order but that title is a little misleading.
Senior: Elements of the discourse:
1) conversion (18:3)Amen I say to you,
unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the
kingdom of heaven.
2) care for the little ones (18:6) Whoever causes one
of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to
have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths
of the sea.
3) care for the marginal (18:12)
actively seek out straying sheep.
4) procedures for reconciliation
within the community (18: 15-20)
5) the call for limitless (21-22)
forgiveness (18: 23-35).
This week and next we will be hearing from the fourth great
discourse of Jesus as found in Matthew’s Gospel. Our reading today
started with verse 15. It is important to hear these words in the
context of this entire chapter. Prior to verse 1, vs 1-4 Jesus says
that conversion and becoming like a little child are important to be a
disciple. In vs. 5-9 Jesus teaches we must have care for those who are
called “the little ones” those weak in faith and take care not to be an
obstacle to them. Immediately prior to our words that we heard today in
vs. 10-14 Jesus encourages the disciples to actively seek out the
straying sheep. Jesus will also follow these strict rules on how to deal
with a sinner with his words to Peter about forgiveness.
Jesus does not mean that compassion should lead to permissiveness.
He outlines the steps to be taken when a fellow Christian community
member sins. When there is a person who has no intention either of
stopping sinning or of leaving the community, we are to exercise
fraternal correction. The steps are: l) personal discussion
2) discussion before witnesses
3) discussion before the whole
community._ The aim is to win the erring Christian back to the community.
The drastic step of excommunication was probably intended to shock the
offender into reconciliation. When we hear that the erring person is to
be considered as a “tax collector” or a “pagan,”as an outsider in need of
conversion, we are reminded that Jesus had a particular compassion for
such as these. Jesus also speaks “solemnly” of the power of united prayer.
Presumably the decision to excommunicate someone should not be done
without previous prayer. Also, one of the objects of such prayer would
be to win back a brother where all other efforts seem futile.
Jesus will follow these words (next Sunday) by responding to Peter’s
question: “Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive
him? Seven times?” We know the answer. Less familiar to us is the parable
that Jesus tells following this answer The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.
Clearly Jesus is instructing about the newness of the Kingdom of God as
he understands and preaches it. Challenge to us listeners!