How difficult it is to choose which reading to focus on today, because all three readings for Mass have to do with the same subject, including the Responsorial Psalm.
The first reading from the book of Ezekiel is very similar to today’s gospel:
” You, son of man … you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked, ‘O wicked one, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.”
What a difficult passage this is to hear. Many of us have family members and friends who have fallen away from the church, and are sometimes leading immoral lives. It is common nowadays for young couples to live together without being married, many young people drink and do drugs, have babies out of wedlock, or choose abortion. Sometimes adults file bankruptcy simply because they lived too far above their means, others cheat on their taxes, commit adultery, or completely reject worshiping God. Seniors re-enter the dating scene again later in life, after the death of a spouse, and our elders now have the highest growing rate of sexually transmitted diseases of any other age group. A lot of seniors are also living together now too, instead of getting married, so they don’t lose their pension benefits.
Many of us have committed some of these same sins, but we finally realized the error of our ways and returned to Jesus and his Holy church, and we now do our best to live moral lives. Sometimes parents feel a bit guilty because they used to commit the same sins that their family members and friends are committing now. They say, what right do they have to judge others, when they used to do the same things? However, according to the first reading for Mass and the gospel today, that doesn’t excuse us from attempting to deter others from committing serious sins.
We turned from our sins, but will they? Many people fool themselves into believing they aren’t doing anything wrong. Our modern society has come to accept many sins that would make our grandparents or great grandparents, ashamed of us.
In the gospel today, Jesus shows us the right way to address those who are in a serious state of sin. We aren’t called to do this over every little venial sin, but the more serious ones we are definitely obligated to do what we can about it.
The Lord said to try talking to the person alone first, if that doesn’t work, have two or three go with you to talk to him, (we are supposed to tell it to the church next but in most situations this is impossible to do, unless you are in a very small parish and know the priest well, and he is willing to do this.) Saint Monica did do this and it helped her son, though.
Notice that Jesus said it is ok to treat a sinner like a Gentile or tax collector, and that whatever is bound on earth, will be bound in heaven. (That should scare all these politicians that pass laws contrary to God’s laws.)
Many people will quote the words Jesus spoke of, “do not judge, lest you be judged”. However, even though we are called to love the sinner, we are still called to hate the sin. Today’s gospel is Christ’s command to judge the serious actions of a person though, sins that are bound both in heaven and on earth.
But, Jesus also said where two or three are gathered together to pray, then he is in their midst. The Responsorial Psalm today said, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This is a good thing to do, to pray for the conversion of those in a state of serious sin.
The second reading from the book of Romans today had a beautiful verse and it would be a good way to end today’s reflection on a more positive note:
“… the one who loves another has fulfilled the law … whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
The scriptures for Mass today make it pretty clear that in order to genuinely love another person, we are required to talk to them about their serious sins, and pray for their conversion.
Many people are afraid to alienate their family members and friends if they mention their serious sins, or lose their relationship entirely. But, if we don’t, then we run the risk of losing their relationship for all of eternity. When weighed against the backdrop of eternity, which of the two is the more genuine love? Our temporary good relationship with those we love? Or their love, gratitude and friendship for all of eternity?
Sunday Mass Readings:
Ezekiel 33: 7-9 / Psalm 95 / Romans 13: 8-10 / Matthew 18: 15-20