Ezekiel 33: 7-9,
Romans 13: 8-10,
Matthew 18: 15-20
Don’t you just love to get corrected? Isn’t it great fun? Don’t you wake up each day just hoping someone will correct you? If you answered “yes,” you just might be the only one around! I don’t think the rest of us like it too much. However, because we are members of a fallen race, prone to weakness, error and sin – we all need correction. The Old Testament prophets, including Ezekiel in today’s reading, were called by God to warn and correct the people to whom they were sent. Today’s gospel presents a plan or program of how to handle differences and disagreements among believers.
The point of these few verses from the prophet Ezekiel is very clear – it is personal responsibility. The Lord tells the prophet, if I send you to warn the wicked and you don’t do it, then you will be held accountable. On the other hand, if the Lord sends the prophet with a warning, and he does his job and fulfills this mission, then the ball is in the other court. The choice is up to the wicked person – turn from your evil way or die! The prophet is in the clear. So the moral of this story is: Don’t be afraid to preach the word of God, even if it’s difficult or inconvenient. I remember hearing a pastor give such a sermon. As he ended his words, he said, “I will sleep well tonight knowing I’ve delivered the message the Lord gave me. How you sleep tonight is up to you.”
Jesus gives us a model or a template of how to handle quarrels between two believers. First, it’s one to one. (Let’s face it, this is usually honored more by the breach than by the observance!) If that doesn’t work, take one or two others along to help and to witness. Then, bring it to the wider church community. Those who refuse to abide by the church’s decision put themselves outside the church’s fellowship. The gospel ends with Jesus speaking about the strength in a united voice, especially in prayer. The main point is that the Spirit of Jesus is present in the united gathering of believers, so that unified, corporate prayer has great power and effectiveness.
The second reading is a call to love and unity in the Body of Christ. St. Paul tells us that if we truly love our neighbor according to God’s word, we will keep the commandments. “Love is the fulfillment of the Law.” It’s very interesting that such a call to love and fraternal charity comes in the middle of the other readings about warning, correction, differences, and disagreements!
DON’T BE STUPID!
Proverbs 12:1 says that he who hates correction is stupid. Uh oh! So we need to wise up and ask the Lord for the grace to accept His warning or correction when we need it. If a godly person, wise in the ways of the Lord, speaks God’s word of truth to correct us, let us pray for the grace to swallow our defensiveness and receive whatever God wants to show us. And also, if we are ever called upon to deliver such a word, let us do so humbly but with courage. And let us never forget – the goal is always redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, and “to win over your brother.”