Sunday Says Podcast – September 7, 2014 Mass Readings and Reflections
Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time (NAB Translation)
Welcome to the Sunday Says podcast for September 7, 2014, the Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time. Thank you for joining us as we begin preparing our hearts and minds for Mass by previewing and reflecting on the readings. The selected readings this week challenge us to reflect on the responsibilities of love, especially regarding the welfare of our neighbor, and especially when it is necessary to provide correction or discipline to a brother or sister in Christ. As always, we are using the New Jerusalem translation for copyright purposes.
Our first reading, from the Old Testament, comes from the book of the great prophet Ezekiel writing shortly before 587 B.C. –just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The nation of Judah has continued its downward spiral into sin and moral decay and the prophet Ezekiel, much like the prophet Jeremiah, has been given the duty of warning them of the consequences. God says to Ezekiel, “I have appointed you as sentry” – as a “watchman” to the house of Israel. God loves his people and true love demands that we warn people when we see they are going down a destructive path. God is serious about this to the point of holding Ezekiel accountable for delivering the message, as unpopular as it may be –even at the risk of his own suffering when people reject the message. In the end, many of the people of Judah did indeed reject the warnings and were thus carried off into exile in Babylon. Even so, God, in his mercy did not abandon them. This passage should remind us that Jesus said we are our brother’s keeper. Are we ourselves willing to love our neighbor to the point of personal suffering or rejection for the sake of our Lord?
The response for the responsorial Psalm is “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
The Second Reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. In this passage St. Paul reminds us that “love” is the defining test of our faithfulness to God. Jesus has told us to love our neighbor as ourselves and by his own example shows us the uncompromising love he is talking about. The Jewish people of the time were already familiar with both the commandment to love God and the commandment to love neighbor. Jesus in profound simplicity fused these two into a single commandment that we should love the God we cannot see by loving our neighbor whom we can. Love is the guiding principle behind all the commandments. Our obedience to the commandments must done in love and for the love of God: always willing the good of our neighbor for the sake of God and backing it with action and prayer.
In our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, as he often does, takes a theme from the Old Testament and delivers its final and fullest interpretation. The Jews at the time of Jesus looked to the Torah (that body of Laws handed down by Moses) to govern how one was to live in community. The Torah even called for a justice system designed to ensure that people treated each other fairly. What the Torah provided for the old Israel, Jesus provides for his Church, which is the new Israel. Sometimes charity demands that we correct someone who has wronged either ourselves or another person. When correction is necessary, justice and forgiveness are the guiding principles. Notice how Jesus is concerned for both parties. He says if your brother who has wronged you listens to you when you bring the issue to his attention, then, “you have gained a brother.” (He does not say, “you have sufficient revenge,” but rather, “you have gained a brother,” as Church father St. John Chrysostom points out in his sermon on this passage.) And only if the brother obstinately refuses to listen should the matter go further. However, if the brother remains defiant, even upon the witness of two or three friends, the matter can be brought to the Church for a binding decision with eternal implications. The goal is repentance and the sanctification of both parties. Finally, Jesus reminds us of his continued presence among us when we gather in his name. This statement echoes a saying by the rabbis that said “when two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them.”
Theme song Ignite – Soundwave soundwave.cc
Background Music This Week