Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
First reading: Ez 33:7-9
Responsoral Psalm: 95:1-2, 6-9
Second reading: Rom 13:8-10
Gospel: Mt 18:15-20
By Jem Sullivan
God desires our friendship and love. But do we really believe this? Do we live as if we were convinced that God created us in love and for love?
Today the word of God invites us to discover who we are and who we are called to be in our vocation to love God and neighbor. We are encouraged to recognize the presence of Jesus in our midst in the love we receive and share each day.
Being a prophet was not easy. God reminds the prophet Ezekiel of his responsibility to invite the people of Israel to turn from selfish ways and choose the way of love.
Ezekiel’s message was not dependent on whether the people responded well to his words. His task was to call the people to repentance and conversion. God would do the rest in the hearts of those who accepted the prophet’s words.
Ezekiel assures the people that God is not vengeful and angry. Rather, the divine desire is for the Israelites to turn from their ways and return to God who is compassionate and forgiving. God is love and he desires that his creatures live in and by love, not in fear or indifference.
St. Paul affirms the same truth of faith. The commandments and the Christian life, he says, are summed up in one word — love. St. Paul invites his readers, and us, to experience love of God and neighbor as the heart of the Christian life, moving beyond external observance of spiritual practices.
Jesus’ words in the Gospel direct our gaze to love when he says: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Christianity cannot be reduced to a relationship between “Jesus and me.”
A Christian is not a lone ranger. Being a disciple of Jesus is inseparable from belonging to his body, the church. The two go hand in hand.
What a blessing it is to know I am never alone or isolated as a follower of Christ. Rather, I live in solidarity with other Christians united in faith, hope and love. This solidarity extends to every human being who seeks truth, goodness and beauty.
The church cannot be reduced to one religious institution among others. The church originates in Christ himself, who is present where two or three are gathered in his name. The church is the sacred place where we experience Jesus’ presence in one another, in the face of the poor, the outcast and those in spiritual and material need.
We respond to the invitation of Scripture when we return to love as the heart of Christian faith. Love unites us to say confidently in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”
“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.” (St. John Paul II, “Redeemer of Man”)
Sullivan, wife and mother, author and professor, writes on faith and culture in the new evangelization.