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September 3, 2008
By James Cavanagh
Sept. 7: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Ezekiel 33:7-9
• Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-9
• Romans 13:8-10
• Matthew 18:15-20
Theme: Speaking the truth in love. One of the requirements of love is to look out for each other. Sometimes that means being open and honest when it’s uncomfortable. In this week’s first reading, Ezekiel is compared to a watchman. His role is to look out for his people and warn them about the consequences of sin. Like a watchman posted on a city wall, the prophet must be vigilant and honest about the imminent danger of sin. If he does not warn the wrongdoer, he has failed in his responsibility and will be held accountable. If he does deliver the warning, but the wrongdoer does not heed his voice, then the responsibility for sin belongs to the wrongdoer. The Psalm echoes this theme urging us to heed the word of God: “If today you would hear his voice, harden not your hearts!” The reading from Romans sums up the second half of the Ten Commandments with the all-embracing command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This week’s Gospel deals with how we embody Christ’s love in the way we deal with offenses. We need to make every effort to reconcile with those who have hurt us, remembering that “God’s mercy can penetrate our hearts only if we have learned to forgive our enemies” (“Catechism,” No. 2862).
Key verse: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another” (Rom 13:8).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “The Lord’s words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. … It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (No. 2843).
Pope Benedict XVI: “Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety. As a community, the Church must practice love” (“Deus Caritas Est,” 20).
Application: Love requires honesty. Friends help each other the most when they’re honest with one another. By “speaking the truth in love” we help each “grow up in every way into Christ” (Eph 4:15). In this week’s Gospel Jesus teaches us how to handle conflicts. If someone has hurt us, we need to speak directly and discreetly with that person and do everything we can to reconcile. The tendency in our culture is to nurse grudges rather than forgive. If we’ve been hurt or offended we need to address it—charitably of course and always with a readiness to forgive. By doing so, we will turn “injury into compassion and hurt into intercession.”