23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-9
Second Reading: Romans 13:8-10
Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20

There are many passages in Sacred Scriptures that are as relevant and practical in our lives today as they were thousands of years ago when they were first written. Today’s readings are good examples of such passages.
The gospel of Matthew was written in response to some problems that troubled the first Christian communities. They wanted to know how to deal with scandals, what to do when a Christian goes astray and when correction can be given to one who goes wrong.
Matthew, the Gospel writer, tells us what Jesus proposes: The first is to go and speak to the person personally, face to face. This first step may be delicate and most sensitive because if the person gets hurt, things may worsen and the one who tried with the best of intentions may end up, not only losing a friend, but also feeling responsible for the failed conversion. If the first attempt fails, the second step is to ask the help of one or two warm-hearted and wise members of the community. The good of the person and his or her recovery must always be the main purpose of the effort and the admonition is from friends who have good intentions in their hearts. The last resort is to go before the community. This option should be taken only in cases when the sin committed may risk upsetting all other members of the community, particularly, those who are weaker in faith.
The Church is not made up only of holy people, but also of sinners. The Church is not a group of holy and just people, people without blemish or sin who exclude those who go wrong. However, the Church also has the duty to bind and to loose those who are responsible for their actions. Thus the gospel ends with the words: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
We are responsible for each and everyone in the community. We have to do justice to each other out of love. The primary moral obligation for Christians as we see in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (second reading) is to give what is due to the other, be it to God, to the State or to whoever we see everyday.
There are two ways of meeting our obligations to one another. One is by law, the other is by love. Where love reigns, we do not often need laws because goodness and kindness is not something we may choose to do or not do but a debt we owe to each other out of love.