The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – 10 September 2023
Lectionary Readings: Ezek 33:7-9; Ps 94:1-2, 6-9; Rom 13:8-10; Matt 18:15-20
Theme: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
The gospel for today is most relevant to our present day Church concerns. In his ministry, Jesus constantly taught about the need for forgiveness, and here he speaks to his disciples about the importance of not only universal forgiveness, but the critical need for forgiveness within the Church itself. He calls them to welcome all people, even Gentiles and tax collectors, into the community if they believe in his message and his leadership among them. It reminds me of the message conveyed by Pope Francis at the recent World Youth Day as he led the participants in chanting, “All are welcome, all are welcome.” Everywhere we look there are fractures and divisions in our society. This filters down to all our institutions, including our local Churches, parishes, and even families and neighborhoods. The message of reconciliation in families, parishes, and countries is to find new ways to live together in peace and harmony under the guidance of our gracious and loving Creator. We are challenged to open our hearts and let those who are “least among us” find “a place at the table” – a place that offers rest, hope, compassion, and safety; a place they can find “home.” Throughout the world we see people searching for places to live and raise their families without fear and trauma coming from wars, weather events, and the domination of cruel dictators. Our readings remind us that what we see and experience today was also some of what our ancestors experienced as well. For so many of us, a big difference is that we “know” and “see” what is happening in real time or minutes later! We are bombarded on TV, blogs, and bully pulpits by vengeful accusations of those who see others to be sinful and wrong (p 245). Yet Jesus is the one who shows his disciples to advocate for the poor and downtrodden. Jesus calls us to change our ways and hearts and to work for inclusion, hospitality, and the good for all our sisters and brothers on our tiny planet.
The first reading from Ezekiel echoes this same message as leaders are called to tell the people that they must change their ways from evil and do good to all their neighbors, even those who are foreigners. The Psalm response, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts,” calls us to sing with joy and thanksgiving to our loving Creator God. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who invites us to follow his ways. He reminds us that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is present among us. This is Good News to spread far and wide this week.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. As the school year begins, we often gather in new groups in our communities and churches. How can we make this experience one of acceptance and hope for each member? 2. What are the challenges our small communities face? How can we as imperfect people find ways to grow in patience, kindness, and acceptance towards all as loving members?
Bibliography: Nash, Rev. Penny. Naked and you Clothed Me: Homilies & Reflections for Cycle A, edited by James J Knipper, Clear Faith Publishing, Princeton, NJ, 2013, pp. 245-247.
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Mary Louise Chesley-Cora, USA Bat Kol Alumna 2001