Homily for the twenty-third Sunday in the Year

Year A  -  Mt. 18:15-20

 
 

"Jesus said to his disciples:  «If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

"«Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.»"



Homily:


"Jesus said to his disciples:  «If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.»"

In this Sunday's gospel, Jesus speaks to us of the unity which must reign among his disciples;  that is, the unity which must reign among us today, uniting us as believers in the Son of God made Man, who died and rose again for the salvation of the world.  If Jesus speaks to us in this way of unity among Christians, it is certainly not a unity which is yet to be realized:  for the Church, being a Mystery, the very Mystery of Jesus Christ communicated and distributed, is ONE in essence (cf. Credo).  Her unity is therefore not one which is to be realized, but rather it must become our own, it must become part of our entire being through a profound life of faith, limitless hope, and sincere charity!  It is in this sense that Jesus addressed his discourse to his disciples.

Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you. . ."  This supposes that there are at least two people in conflict:  our brother, and ourself.  But of the two, who is right?  The answer to this question is determinative:  for isn't it the one who is in the right who has a certain right to admonish the other concerning his faults and to reprimand him for having acted wrongly?  But how can we determine exactly which of the two is right?  Jesus himself gives us the answer to this last question...

"«But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.»"

Those who will judge whether it is our brother or ourself who is in the right will be third parties who are not personally involved in the dispute in question:  "But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses."  When our passions are unleashed, we are rarely able to judge things in a dispassionate manner and to bring an adequate judgement to bear upon the present situation.  Thus, relying on others who are not involved in the dispute would be of great help.

But quite often, the advice of these third parties will not suffice to resolve the problem:  for these people would usually be treated as equals, having but little influence over those involved in the conflict. This is why Jesus recommends that we then address ourselves to the Church, for she does possess authority, and a head to exercise it:  Peter, the very one whom Jesus had established to bind and loose all things on earth as in heaven.  In addition, Jesus made a clear allusion to the power of the keys that Peter possesses within the Church:  "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

"«Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.»"

If the passage upon which we have just commented is important, this one is even more so!  The previous passage spoke to us of the obstacles to be eliminated in order that unity among Christians might spread;  the passage we are currently reading instructs us concerning the immense and limitless fruits which come from a unity truly lived and shared among all the disciples of Christ.  "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."  This is unbelievable!  Well, not quite... or rather, not at all!  For it is precisely faith that each of us needs in order for Jesus to be present, truly and mysteriously, in our midst, and in us!

Let us carefully reread what Jesus said:  "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven."  Now, it is clear that, among two or three people, there must be one person, and one alone, who proposes to the others what they will ask of the Father.  On one hand, this means that the person who proposes that for which they will ask must have been attentive to what the Spirit told him, and that he believed, with a profound faith, in an inspiration from God;  and on the other hand, this also means that the other disciples of Christ voluntarily accept to ask of God what the first person had proposed, which presupposes that these disciples have a faith that is just as profound, for only faith can allow them to abstract their own desire, or even more so, their own inspiration. Thus, the fact that two or three disciples agree to ask for something from the Father is not banal:  rather, although it is common in the Church, this manifests all of the heroic character of the virtue we call "faith"!

May Mary, who believed in the Word of God in a manner without equal, help us through her intercession and obtain for us the gift of constant faith, a faith that grows ever greater and more alive!