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Matthew 18:15-20

The Word of God

‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 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. If the member 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. 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. 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. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’

Matthew 18:15-20
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Jesus is gently reminding us that by being members of the church community, we are responsible for one another, and one of our tasks of love may be that of correcting our brother or sister who errs. This is never an easy task in our relativistic times, and our advice risks being rejected. Fraternal correction must always be inspired by real charity - it is one of the spiritual works of mercy. I pray to be given this love and the wisdom to find the right way to carry out this task of love.
    • Because Jesus shares his own spirit with us, the connection between the community of believers and Jesus is very close: what we bind or loose here is bound or loosed in heaven, and whatever we ask in union will be given to us by the Father. I ask for this insight and for a stronger faith in the presence of Jesus in the midst of the Church.
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    • The fourth discourse of Matthew’s Gospel is addressed to the leading disciples. It gives the rules for the Christian Community. It emphasises the role of dialogue which is another way of saying that we should at all times seek consensus. It accepts that this is not always possible and the consequences are clear.
    • To what extent do I seek consensus, or do I rather work to make sure that my will prevails?
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    • Jesus is Emmanuel, “God is with us”. He is with us in our Church community. His message is one of reconciliation, not retribution. We are asked to “regain” our brother or sister. “Regaining” is more than stopping someone’s offensive behaviour, it is converting that person – bringing about a true change in attitude. Jesus’ openness to sinners depends on a change of heart and a change in behaviour: “Go, and sin no more”.
    • When we approach God in community, even a community of two or three, he is already there with us.
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    • Jesus promises his continuing presence. Even as I pray alone, I am united with others who pray at this time, with all of those who read this gospel today, with those who use Sacred Space just now. I grow in awareness that Jesus wants to be present to me, is present to me, loves me and calls me to life.
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    • Perhaps Jesus does not mean that the agreement disciples might reach is a guarantee of God’s miraculous intervention but saw that the miracle lies in two people being fully of one mind and heart. When people believe and trust fully in each other and in God, the reign of God is brought into being.
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    • How do we take the first step to heal a broken relationship, if the hurt done to us is very painful? Where can we find the courage to speak face to face with the one who has caused such hurt? How do we become reconciled? We may need to seek the help and prayer of our friends, so that we will find the right words and the right way to settle our differences
    • Jesus you tell us that where two or three are gathered in your name you are there with us, Let us trust and believe in what you say and seek your wisdom in resolving difficult situations. May we believe in the giftedness of those who hurt us. They too are the beloved of God!
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Lord, this is your way of stopping tell-tales in the church. If I am sore about somebody, then the first person for me to approach is that person, with respect and kindness, whether it is a relation or acquaintance, a parish priest or official. So many people start by running to authority, expecting Big Daddy to come down with a stick. People write letters of complaint to Rome without having voiced their complaint to the one they are denouncing. That is the opposite of Christian behaviour.
    • Whatever I do when I am upset, Lord, let me do it in charity.
    • The presence of Jesus in the community is highlighted in these gospel words. In caring and challenging the offending member, in gathering together in his name, the Lord is present. One of the first words of the gospel was 'Emmanuel' - God is with us. The end of the gospel has Jesus' promise of being with us all days. In a church which may overemphasise the sacramental presence of the Lord, it is good to remind ourselves of the presence of Jesus among us all the time, in the heart and hearts of his people.
    • In many ways, we are keepers of our sisters and brothers. We have social responsibility in family and in neighbourhood. Jesus is saying something like that today. We have a responsibility for each other, for the common good. Parents may find this most difficult - to try to guide the family well and not lose them. We teach by example and by love. Even when children are young and making some mistakes, we hope they are not mistakes that last forever, like crime, alcoholism or an unplanned life-changing moment. We pray to God for help. This we do with others. We ask for guidance and find help in the community of the church and of others. That's where God is - two or three gathered is the community of God. Church is the gathered people. God wants the best for each of us. We can help each other to goodness, we can support each other, correct each other, and help each other on our way to God.
    • Jesus promises guidance and his presence to his followers for all ages. If we gather in his name, he is with us. The ‘in his name' is the relevant condition. That means openness to his word and the traditions faithfully handed on by his community of followers. It means openness to asking for wisdom and guidance and the humility to admit none of us has all the answers.
    • I let my ideas of justice and fairness be worked on by Jesus' words. I resist engaging in an intellectual evaluation or a legal argument, and let Jesus' desire for harmony speak to my heart.
    • I consider the effects of living in a culture that promotes gossip, scandal and the telling of tales. I pray that God’s Spirit may lead me to right judgment.