Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: Christian ways of loving
By: Fr. Benny Tuazon
Homily for Sunday September 6 2020
(Mt. 18:15-20) Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s readings, LOVE, expressed in COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS, is proclaimed. The Second Reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans anchors it in the final verse,
“Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfilment of the law.”
This is Christian loving which is much much different from all the loves defined by the world or any religion. Christian loving knows no bounds. Jesus exemplified it by doing the ultimate act of dying on the cross for the forgiveness of sins while remaining sinless Himself. In other words, His love heals and saves and never does any evil even in the face of much provocation.
The First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel gives an example of Christian loving. In the reading, the Lord, through the prophet Ezekiel, reminded His people that they are watchmen for each other. It is their responsibility to warn the wicked for the Lord. If they do and the wicked still continued, the wicked will be responsible for his guilt while the people will be saved. But if they fail to remind the wicked, then they will be responsible for the death of the wicked. This is what we now call the sin of omission.
This kind of loving is very relevant today when being outspoken is subject to a lot of criticisms. A lot of sins are being committed around us. Some had even been made legal and became acceptable. The kind of reasoning people had adopted had become so low and arrogant. Many are afraid of being bashed and criticized for being Pharisaic, for being hypocrites. We remember the Pharisees were known to say one thing but does another.
Jesus was very critical of them during His time. He was attacking their misplaced righteousness. To be moral and faithful to God’s commandments mean to live what you preach. Another fear is to be accused of being judgmental. Again, Jesus cautioned His people regarding this attitude. To condemn a person for a certain action is wrong. We do not know what are in the hearts and minds of people. Thus, we ought to be careful in judging people.
But where do we begin? Can we just let people do their wickedness? If we do, then, we will be responsible before the Lord. We avoid both mistakes mentioned above under the guise of being compassionate. There is a thin line between compassion and being Pharisaic and judgmental, at least externally. But God sees what is in our hearts. If we speak with compassion, that is, with love for the person who is wicked and his possible victims, then, we will be in God’s favour. Others may accuse us but we cannot control their minds. What is important is to be honest before the Lord. We take the consequence of what people may think of us but we receive the favour of God’s love and support.
The Gospel gives us the second way of loving; that is FORGIVENESS. Maybe this is one of the best way to love a person. It is at the core of the Christian Faith. From the Old testament to the teachings of Jesus, this was proclaimed again and again. Yet, it is the hardest to do. The most crucial moments in the life and ministry of Jesus involve forgiveness; the parables of the Prodigal Son, Unforgiving Servant, Lost Sheep, Lost Coin. Then we have Jesus’ teaching of forgiving not seven times but seventy seven times, the Lord’s Prayer, forgiveness of Peter, Magdalene, the thief, and Paul. And hanging on the cross, crucified without sin, the first words He uttered were words of forgiveness! Hopefully the forgiveness will occur between the sinner and the offended. If not, Jesus recommended the presence of a third party, who both will respect. If forgiveness is still not attained, He asked that it be brought to the community. The point of Jesus was, forgiveness must be attained at all cost. Forgiveness is not only limited to the concerned parties. In the same way that sin is not only personal but also social, forgiveness may also be done involving the community. At present, the Sacrament of Reconciliation satisfies that. The penitent goes to the priest who represents both God and the community. When we go to confession, we ask forgiveness to God and community. We are forgiven by both!
Who was it who said, “With love (Christian loving), you can never go wrong.”