Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time: Minority Report

The Lord puts the parable of the unforgiving debtor before us that we may learn from it. He has no desire for us to die, so he warns us: “This is how your heavenly Father will deal with you if you, any of you, fail to forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Sep 06, 2020

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9;
Romans 13:8-10; Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20

You heard the kids stirring this morning.  You opened your eyes.  It can’t be morning already. It’s Sunday, I have to get them dressed.  You wash up.  You get the kids washed up. You throw the paper inside and try to keep the kids from killing each other over who gets the comics first. You get some breakfast on and get some coffee in yourself and cereal in the kids. You look at the clock. 8:45 already! “Get the kids in the car, we’ve got to go.” You drive down your street. You seem to be one of the few families stirring.  Everyone else is going to have a relaxing breakfast. It hits you. We are in a minority on our block. We are one of the few families which goes to church Sunday morning.

Five of you made the trip to corporate headquarters in Phoenix. The second night four of the others found dates; three of them are married, but their view was that what their spouses did not know wouldn’t hurt them.  So you went to a movie and it is so clear to you, “I wouldn’t even think of cheating; yet, I’m in the minority.”

You are among ninety-six of the most brilliant college graduates who have been accepted to a particular medical school.  Your excitement includes finally getting to study to be a doctor; as well as the new way you have to frame your life with an off campus apartment in a quiet area so you can study during the few hours when you are not in class. You ask for the location of the nearest church and find that there are only three others of the 96 who even believe in God.  You are in the minority.

Most of the people in the office you work in do go to church. About half of them are Catholic. You are shocked when someone talks about abortion and says, “Well, I’m Catholic, but I don’t go along with what the Church is saying on abortion.” Everyone else seems to be agreeing with the person.  You are in the minority. The sociology teacher in the high school asks, “How many of your families are active members of some Church or synagogue?” Less than 10 of the 35 in the class raise their hands. You suddenly realise that you are in the minority. Perhaps some of these situations, or others like them, have occurred in your life. Perhaps they occur frequently.

Perhaps you have won dered, “Why am I the one in the minority? Why am I getting up early on Sunday morning when the rest are sleeping in? Why am I the one who is alone at the movie when others are out having a good time? Why am I the only one in Med School who structures church into my crowded week? Why am I the only one who accepts the Church’s teaching on abortion? Why is my family the only family going to church?”

When questions like this disturb us, we have to remember, Jesus never promised that we would be in the majority.  He just promised that He would be with us always.

The Gospel of Matthew revolves around this very theme. Jesus is with us, even if we seem to be just a small, insignificant number.  In the beginning of Matthew, Jesus is called Emmanuel, the name that means, “God is with his people.” The last words of the gospel are “Know that I am with you even until the end of time.”  Moreover, in the middle of the Gospel we have the concluding words of today’s reading. “For  where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

We go to church because we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in His presence in Word and Sacrament. We need His presence in our families. We come to church to get our spiritual batteries charged with the grace of His scriptural and sacramental presence.  We come so we can have the courage to make it through another week, especially if we are called upon to stand for our faith. We come so we can pray, “Lord, my life is difficult at times, but you called me to marriage, you made me a father or mother, help me to answer your call well.” We come to pray for others, “Lord, may the people on my block nourish the place you must have in their families. Lord, may the people at work learn to honour, value, and respect their marriages. Lord, may the others in med school learn that  ithout you, medicine is a science without direction, Lord, may other Catholics stand behind your spirit in the Church, and Lord, may my family and the families of all in my high school class grow closer to you.” And we come to receive the grace to live our lives in a way that proclaims the presence of the Lord on earth.

Our church is big, but there are not many attending Mass in comparison to those who don’t. We are, and will always be in the minority. But Jesus Christ never promised us that we would be, in the majority.  He just promised that he would be with us always.––By Msgr Joseph A Pellegrino

Thoughts From The Early Church: I tell you that you must forgive not seven times but seventy times seven (Mt 18:22)

The Lord puts the parable of the unforgiving debtor before us that we may learn from it. He has no desire for us to die, so he warns us: “This is how your heavenly Father will deal with you if you, any of you, fail to forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Take notice now, for clearly this is no idle warning. The fulfilment of this command calls for the most vigorous obedience. We are all in debt to God, just as other people are in debt to us. Is there anyone who is not God’s debtor? Only a person in whom no sin can be found. And is there anyone who has no brother or sister in his debt? Only if there be someone who has never suffered any wrong.

Do you think anyone can be found in the entire human race who has not in turn wronged another in some way, incurring a debt to that person? No, all are debtors, and have others in debt to them. Accordingly God, who is just, has told you how to treat your debtor, because he means to treat us in the same way.

There are two works of mercy which will set us free. They are briefly set down in the gospel in the  Lord’s own words: “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and you will receive.” (Mt 6:14) The former concerns pardon, the latter generosity.

As regards pardon he says: “Just as you want to be forgiven, so someone is in need of your forgiveness.” Again, as regards generosity, consider when a beggar asks you for something that you are a beggar too in relation to God. When we pray we are all beggars before God.

We are standing at the door of a great householder, or rather, lying prostrate, and begging with tears. We are longing to receive a gift — the gift of God himself.

What does a beggar ask of you? Bread. And you, what do you ask of God, if not Christ, who said: “I am the living bread that has come down from heaven”? Do you want to be pardoned? Then pardon others. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Do you want to receive? Give and you will receive.

If we think of our sins, reckoning up those we have committed by sight, hearing, thought, and countless disorderly emotions, I do not know whether we can even sleep without falling into  debt.

And so, every day we pray; every day we beat upon God’s ears with our pleas; every day we prostrate ourselves before him saying: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us.”

Which of our trespasses, all of them or only some? All, you will answer.

Do likewise, therefore, with those who have offended you.

This is the rule you have laid down for yourself, the condition you have stipulated. When you pray according to this pact and covenant you remember to say: “Forgive us, as we also forgive our debtors.” –– Augustine (354-430) was born at Thagaste in Africa and received a Christian education, although he was not baptised until 387. In 391 he was ordained priest and in 395 he became coadjutor bishop to Valerius of Hippo, whom he succeeded in 396. Augustine’s theology was formulated in the course of his struggle with three heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. His writings are voluminous and his influence on subsequent theology immense

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