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  • Sacred Heart Church

09.06.2020 Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Updated: Oct 9

“Forgiveness”

Carl Vilhelm Meyer

1880-1942

Lectio

Matthew 18:15-20

15 “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

17 If your brother refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as

a Gentile and a tax collector.

18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’”

Meditatio

The Context

We are reading Chapter 18 of the Gospel of Matthew.

Last week we contemplated in Chapter 16 the first announcement of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, and we saw the reaction of Peter and the rest of Disciples.

In between, the Gospel continued saying how Jesus was Transfigured on Mount Tabor and how He announced his death a second time.

The so-called “Community Discourse” in this Chapter is structured as follows:

1. The dangers to the Disciples

a. Ambition (18:1-3)

b. Scandal (18:6-9)

c. Lack of concern for the ‘Little Ones’ (18:10-14)

2. The duties of the Disciples (18:15-35)

a. Fraternal Correction (18:15-20)

b. Forgiveness (18:21-35)

The Heart of Jesus

This is a text difficult to understand, and easily misread if not understood within the entire message of Jesus.

At first sight one may think that Jesus is here giving a set of rules or a moral code of conduct to sort out hostility and conflict among brothers.

The text is written in such a way that we can see how it reveals the society in Jesus’ time settled such difficult matters[1]. Therefore, Jesus is once again, as He does when talking in Parables, taking examples from daily life, not to give a moral teaching, but to offer inspirational values based on the love that God has for us.

Therefore, we should avoid thinking that Jesus is measuring out the amount of patience one should have before passing judgement on a brother. We cannot think that Jesus is inviting the Disciples to have a little patience before one is morally entitled to put a member outside the Community.

The Heart of Jesus is compassionate and forgiving without measure[2].

The Community

To silently keep grudges against another person is not a healthy way of dealing with conflict. The advice of Jesus is to “go and have it out with him alone”, as if He is saying: “speak it out, do not entertain evil thoughts in your heart”[3].

The disciple should avoid unhealthy ways of thinking. If we want to clarify issues and keep healthy relationships in the Community, we need to stop making up arguments against someone else in our hearts. We should rather risk being rejected than storing unkind thoughts and feelings in our head!


The inspirational values of Jesus

The turning point in the argument of Jesus is the sentence: “treat him like a pagan or a tax collector”. Jesus came to call sinners[4] and he mixed with tax collectors and publicans[5].

The invitation of Jesus is to learn from him and treat the outcast, the destitute and the marginalized as He did.

Once we have tried all we can to win back a member of the Community and all efforts have failed, it is then and there that Jesus wants us to imitate him and respond with the compassion and mercy of God.


The solemn blessings

Two blessings conclude today’s text. The first one about the keys of the Kingdom, is the same blessing that Jesus imparted on Peter after his confession of faith, but now He offers it upon all his Disciples. Jesus bestows the blessing of reconciliation on the Church[6].

The second blessing is about prayer. A blessing we all inherit. Every time we gather in the name of Jesus we grow in faith and trust in God. We thank God His eternal providence and absolute care of all, good and bad alike[7].

Oratio


Contemplatio

We contemplate God’s compassionate Heart at work in the life of Jesus as He welcomes the marginalized and eats with sinners.

As the world is in great need of reconciliation, we contemplate God sending out his disciples with a message of forgiveness and with hearts open to reconciliation.

Jesus blesses us as He blessed the Disciples by giving us the power to forgive.

God blesses us with a Community that nourishes us and sustains our faith.

We praise and thank God for giving us the desire to pray and ask Him to teach us how to pray in every circumstance.


[1] Deut. 19:15: “A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offense that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.” John 8:17: “In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid.” [2] Matthew 18:27: “And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.” [3] Lev. 19:17: “You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.”

[4] Matthew 9:13 [5] Mark 2:14: “he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.” Matthew 9: 12:“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [6] John 20:23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” [7] John 15:7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:16: “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.”

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