23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Ezekiel 33:7-9 / PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 / Rom 13:8-10 / Mt 18:15-20

     This Sunday as we continue through Ordinary Time we continue to hear from the Gospel of Matthew, who has been teaching us how to be true disciples of Christ. Two weeks ago we were challenged to profess our faith in Christ as the Son of God, last week we were challenged to make that profession of faith a reality in our life by taking up our cross and following Jesus on the way to Calvary. This week, as we continue to follow after the Son of Man on our way to Calvary we are challenged to bring others with us to the cross so that they too might rise to eternal life.

     In last week’s Gospel we heard Jesus warn us “what profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”[1] In that warning Jesus reminds us that the greatest good is not from this world, it is the gift of eternal life. As we follow Christ on our way to Calvary we are reminded the Jesus has done the hard work, He has opened the gates to heaven and has invited us in and only sin can keep us out.

     Our greatest and only obstacle to eternal life is sin thus we must be ready to resist sin in our life and to assist our brothers and sisters in resisting sin in their lives. St. Paul reminds us in our second reading that the whole Christian life can be summarized by the command to love our neighbor as yourself. To love our neighbor means nothing more than to wish the good for him, for his own sake. What is ultimately best for us and our neighbor is to enter into eternal life so the entire Christian moral life can be summarized by desiring salvation for our neighbor and ourselves.

     Today Jesus teaches us that if we want to help our brothers and sisters carry their cross to Calvary we must warn them if they have gone astray due to sin. We must do our best to leave no man behind on the journey to Calvary. The prophet Ezekiel reminds us “if you do not speak to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.”[2] The warning of the prophet is clear: we will be responsible if we fail to call to task a brother or sister who has strayed to task. There are times in life where we must admonish the sinner because his salvation is in jeopardy and to not admonish him would be to not love him since to love him means to desire eternal life for him. If you saw your baby brother running around a busy street would you not do what you could to warn him of the dangers? Why then wouldn’t we warn our bother or sister when they are risking their eternal life by living in sin?

     In this call to love our neighbor as ourselves we must have a deep compassion and a great concern for the salvation of others. Yet even when done in the proper spirit, calling out a brother or sister is not easy because no one likes to have our sins or faults pointed out.

     Sadly in our society today the reality of sin is not as obvious as it used to be. We live in a culture that cries for the necessity of tolerance. The only sin our world seems to recognize is the failure of someone to be tolerant of someone’s lifestyle choice. Our world tells us that to truly love someone we must be loving and accepting of everything they do. Our culture, while trying to tell us to love everyone has a completely wrong understanding of love for love does not equal tolerance, it equals willing the best for another.

     This false understanding of love in our culture leads to the belief that we should not judge. Certainly as Christians we are called not to judge another, but we judge things all the time. When you drove to Mass today did you not have to make a judgment about whether it was safe or not to make a turn? In fact the decision not to judge is a judgment in itself. Regardless of our beliefs we must make judgments about actions all the time. We do not judge the person, but rather we judge their actions in an attempt to assist them on the path to Calvary. As the old adage goes we love the sinner but hate the sin. With this adage in mind we must always be careful that when we warn someone about sin in their life we do it in a spirit of charity with the recognition that we are all sinners. The warning must come from a place that recognizes we warn them because we love them and want them to enjoy eternal life, and not from a place of vengeance or attempt to judge them.

     The path to Calvary and ultimately to eternal life is not easy, but that is why Jesus left us His Church. Jesus left us the Church to watch over us but He also left us each other. We must leave no man behind, doing all in our power to bring our brothers and sisters to eternal life.

[1] Mt 16:26

[2] EZ 33:8

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