• 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time A

    Posted on September 3, 2017 by 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 _

    _JesusHarrington:  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!

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