Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brother's Keeper: Love & Forgiveness - 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today's readings are about admonishing the sinner and forgiveness.

The first reading is from Ezekiel and tells us of the mission of the prophet as one who judges what is good and evil and must convince the people to stay away from the latter.  He must be a "watchman" and guide, warning the people so that they hopefully will turn away from evil.

"With great power comes great responsibility"

You may be wondering, "Why is he quoting from Stan Lee who said that in the 'Spiderman' movie?"  Well first of all, this quote comes from the philosopher Voltaire, not Stan Lee. I mention this quote because it's related to the first reading. The Lord says,

“O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself."

Here, God is reminding the prophet that if he doesn't speak out to "dissuade the wicked" then the wicked will be punished, but the prophet will be responsible for that punishment which is in this case death.  This is important because we all are our brother's keeper. Cain disagreed with this important duty of ours, but God expects us to care for one another (Genesis 4:9). Unfortunately many times, we Catholics don't want to get involved. We let our family, friends and strangers fall into sin and leave them be. This is especially true regarding gay people we might know.  Instead of encouraging them to live as God does, we sometimes just let them live as if their lifestyle is justified in the eyes of God.

The same can be said in regards to abortion or helping others in general. We don't want to get Romans 15:14). If not, then the person will be punished for his or her sin (if he/she didn't change) and we will be responsible for not intervening. However, God says that if we do try to turn our friends away from wickedness and they refuse, then we will not be responsible because we tried and they didn't want to hear it. The key word here is TRIED.  Not everyone is going to listen to us, but the fact that we tried means a lot.

The responsorial Psalm replies to the first reading with the call to not harden our hearts if we hear His voice.  The Psalm recalls how God has always been there and that we should be grateful and not become stubborn and hard headed like the Hebrews at Massah who began to question and doubt God despite seeing the miracles He performed that wowed Egypt. This Psalm is important because how many times we hear God's voice, we go to Mass but still continue to sin.  Mass becomes a mere "obligation" and not a way of life. It becomes something we do on a weekend that we have to get over with quickly and then storm out of church and sin like there's no tomorrow.  This is not how it's supposed to be.

The second reading  reminds us that we owe nothing to anyone except that we have to love them. St. Paul even makes it clear that all the laws of God are summed into loving our neighbors as ourselves. If we love others, we will not disrespect our parents and those in authority, we will not disrespect or sin against our lovers, we will not steal from others, kill others, desire the goods or lovers of others. This make a lot of sense even in a secular sense.  If everyone on Earth loved each other, we would not need laws or punishments. There would be no need for courts, police, armies and all that stuff.

Finally in the Gospel, we read about how Jesus instructs His disciples on what to do when a brother sins against them.  These instructions apply to us as well.  We must tell our brother or the offender of his or her sin and work it out.  If he or she listens, then all is well.  However, if he or she does not want to hear it, then we must get others to join in and mediate the situation. If that does not work, we must even get the church involved.  However, if the church does not work, then this person must be left aside or excommunicated.  However, this does not mean he or she must be treated like trash or shunned like the Amish do who misinterpret the Scriptures.  Jesus then reminds the disciples of the authority they have to bind and unbind things.  In other words, they have the power to forgive sins. This Gospel tells us a lot about how the Church operates. The Church tries to reconcile people and when it does not work, she excommunicates them (2 Thessalonians 3:15). However, reconciliation is always on the table and the offender is always welcomed to come back, granted he or she changes his or her ways (Luke 17:3).

I understand there are some people who we just cannot stand. We want to push them down a flight or stairs or throw something at them; however, we must set aside those impulses and forgive.  We must love them as ourselves.  This doesn't mean we have to like them of what they do. Remember, God will reward you as the first reading tells us if we love one another and warn others of their wickedness even if they refuse to listen.  The problem will be their's not ours when they have to face God and account of their action or lack of action.  


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