Ezekiel 33:7-9; Ps 95; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20
Throughout the world these days, we have experienced the horrors of violence and war and tremendous inhumanity. Some of us who are reading this reflection may be in the midst of this terrible violence. Others of us just read about it, but feel real pain at the suffering we read or see on the news.
God summons Ezekiel to be a prophet - to try to change the behavior of the people. So much does God want Ezekiel to take on this mission of transforming the hearts of the people, God even says God will hold Ezekiel responsible for the people's behavior.
In the powerful Psalm 95 - used every day in the Liturgy of the Hours - we remind ourselves that if we hear his voice today, we should not harden our hearts.
Paul tells the Romans that all the commandments are summed up in one, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus tells his disciples to be patiently helpful to our brothers and sisters who sin against us. We are to go to work it out - one on one - as opposed to trashing the offender before everyone else. We are to go first to the person himself or herself. If that doesn't work, Jesus tells us to take two others, to still try to build a bridge of healing. Finally, Jesus says that if that doesn't work, we should let this be a matter for the community. Only after all this effort at reconciliation has failed, should we say we had done the best we can.
Jesus clearly builds his community of followers on the notion of a community in which we care for one another, even when there is conflict and division. And, at the end of this gospel reading, Jesus assures us that whenever we are gathered together in prayer, he'll be with us.
Our reflection on these readings and the terrible conflicts in the world can lead us to come together and pray for healing in our world. So much of the violence which is happening is the result of some injustice, some hurt and pain. Violence is never justified, but upon reflection, we can often learn from a terrible chain of circumstances which ignited the violence.
Let us together pray for leaders and ordinary people everywhere, that we can come together to find the path to peace built upon some kind of reconciliation and a just care for the common good, especially for those on the margins of our society.
By Andy Alexander