TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY A: HOMILY by Fr. Matthias Lusembo
THEME: I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SALVATION OF MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Objective: That each one of us feels concerned for the salvation of the other.
When the early Church started experiencing sinfulness, Christ, through Saint Matthew, taught her how to correct sinners. He said: “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…. If he refuses to listen to them tell the Church……If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a gentile or tax collector.” (Mt 18:15-17). That means, if he does not listen to Church authorities, then treat him as a non Christian; that is to say, when he rejects the Church, that is when you may take him to the public court; but not before those steps mentioned above. Christ considers the Church to be a family, which is supposed to handle family matters as a family, without necessarily exposing them to the outside public.
In my language we say “ebyomunju tebittottolwa”, meaning: one does not expose family matters to the public. Christ has immediately reiterated the authority of the Church to handle sinners. He has said: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 18:18).
The wise process laid down by Jesus is the one that respects the reputation of the individual, avoiding embarrassment, anger and shame on the family. It shows brotherly love and concern, keeping in mind that we are all sinners. In the second reading, Saint Paul has underlined the reason for this process: It is the love of neighbor. Suppose you discover that your wife or husband or friend gossips about you or has taken you to court before approaching you to settle the matter with you, will you believe that he/she loves you?
Actually, it is brotherly love that should prompt a Christian to correct a straying member of any rank in the Church.
We do not attend Church as mere individuals. That is why I like the practice of the First Presbyterian Church at Cary Street: Each Church-goer has a nametag, so that each member may be easily recognized by name. The Church is a family, not a conglomeration of individuals. It is not right to claim “my faith is between me and my God, full stop.” My faith is also between me and my neighbor. This is what Christ has emphasized in the Gospel saying: “if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” (Mt 18:19).
The major commandments say: Love God and your neighbor. Our task is not only to save our souls but also the souls of others. God does not like selfishness, otherwise he would not have created us to share in his glory. So, those who claim like Cain, “I am not my brother’s guardian are mistaken. Selfishness is a sign of primitivity, whereas benevolence reveals civilization.
God, in the first reading has told Ezekiel and each one of us: “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he [the wicked man] shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” (Ezek 33:7-8).
It is because of brotherly love and concern that Christ died for our sins and left us the Holy Eucharist to strengthen us to serve our brothers and sisters. As we receive him let us continue to follow his example.