23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
"If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. (Mt. 18:15-20)
In Matthew's gospel, Jesus taught the disciples that if someone sins against you, you must tell him or her their faults. Let's be clear; this is not about sibling rivalry. This lesson is about reconciliation. As a church, how do we reconcile ourselves with our spouses, sisters, priests, ministers, the Pope, and even the United States president when they sinned against you? If you see evil, you must say something to that individual. If there are no results, you must tell a friend, and both of you must talk to the individual who sinned. Hopefully, the witness from the two of you will establish a fact and win your friend over. However, if this fails, you must tell the Church. If the individual refuses to listen to the Church, treat them like a Gentile or a tax collector.
Telling the Church is where I have problems. Can I trust that the Church will stand and not only say something but do something against the sin committed? Jesus gives us the idea that the individual who sinned may listen to the Church. Really? How much respect do we give to the Church today? Have you noticed church leaders' inconsistency in providing spiritual direction surrounding social justice issues perpetuating sin? The Catholic Church and Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and others as well have sinned. The problem here is that telling the "Church," for some people, means nothing. Besides, many church leaders promote "racial social distancing" on Sunday morning by not saying anything about today's racial issues.
The Church is slowly losing its authority and respect. The Church can only regain respectability within the Body of Christ by example. The Church must teach that we must reconcile ourselves with God. St. Paul encourages us, "We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20). We must be ambassadors for Christ and stand for justice, like the Prophet Amos taught, "let justice surge like waters, and righteousness like an unfailing stream" (Am. 5:24).
Churches must also stand in agreement, especially since Jesus said that "if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father." We desperately need our Churches to drop their differences and be holy. I have seen in the news bishops fighting against each other. Do you think that this behavior is a good witness for the community? Where is the holiness towards reconciliation? Jesus said, "I [will be] in the midst of them," but they first must be in agreement because God is not in confusion.
We need to see Churches practice reconciliation and walk in agreement. Church leaders must walk with their flock in rhythm, showing togetherness and praying for healing. Then maybe, after seeing the Church leaders practicing reconciliation from the top, we will gain trust and seek spiritual direction when bringing our issues to the Church.
"[I]f-then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land. Now, therefore, my eyes shall be open and my ears attentive to the prayer of this place" (2 Chron. 7:14-15).
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. [Unity in the Church is a powerful tool in the community]
Dagi knot - a Pan African symbol of unity found in several African cultures, i.e., Yoruba, Hausa, Bushongo, etc.
Author: Evangel. Michael P. Howard, M.A.