Ezekiel 33: 7-9; Romans 13: 8-10; Matthew 18: 15-20
This is one of the weekends where the Second Reading truly acts as a hinge between the two and lies at the heart of the message, “Love does no evil to the neighbor…love is the fulfillment of the law.” That’s really what it is about! I’m always surprised that we keep this gospel in the lectionary cycle! If there’s one thing that we are not very good at is how we deal with issues and conflict that arises in the life of a community and in our individual lives. Maybe that’s why it is kept here, as a reminder to strive for a greater way of dealing with issues and conflict, rather than acting out in our own violent ways.
If we’re honest with ourselves, when issues arise we much prefer to gossip, make issues out of things that aren’t really issues to begin with, and best yet, project our own stuff onto everyone else. Wrong, bad, sin, whatever, is always something out there rather than in myself. It’s easier that way because I never have to take responsibility for my own participation in all of it. Really, though, the heart of the matter is that if we, again, are honest with ourselves, the only way we can seek the higher way is to first seek reconciliation and forgiveness within ourselves. We must first accept that evil lies within me as much as it does “out there” and I must seek reconciliation in order for the community to be one of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Ezekiel finds himself as the watchman for the community, the one who has the great vocation of pointing out their immoral ways and has to confront the issues or pay the price. Ezekiel is not in a position where he can hold back from being the voice and the conscience of the community. He is the watchman for the people. If he chooses not to, when he is aware of and sees what goes on, he condemns them to their own ignorance. It is his responsibility as leader, as watchman to be the one to lead them to the higher path and to the greater good.
Matthew was not foreign to division. In this Sermon on the Church, the community, he points out virtues and vices that foster or destroy relationship. When community is rooted in gossip, drama, always pointing fingers, chaos and insecurity, it will not thrive. It almost seems as if it creates paranoia and people who want nothing to do with the community. So often, unbeknownst to us, is masked with niceness, leaving the community empty and shallow.
But there’s a greater way and a way that brings about life in a community and where people thrive. When we have the courage to stop pointing fingers, creating drama and conflict, and start to see it first within ourselves, we begin to change. We begin to seek reconciliation and forgiveness with ourselves and with others. It’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s requires a great deal of faith and trust, but it is the way of community that Jesus preaches to the disciples and Matthew works at building in the community. It’s the way we must strive for in our own lives, our community, and certainly in our world.
All too often we are ready to cause and bring about violence towards others in our own community and certainly do it as a country. In order to become one, we must seek out the greater way, the way of love, including love of enemy and neighbor, even when we don’t like them. It’s time to stop spreading our own violence onto the community and world and pray for the grace and courage to seek reconciliation and forgiveness. It’s out there; there are real evils. But it’s also right here in me and right there in you. Each day, if we are to be community, we pray for that grace and that courage to forgive those who have hurt, including myself, and seek the greater love, rooted in reconciliation.