Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus offers us a robust vision of how Christians are to relate to one another. Jesus invites us to correct one another, but we should pay close attention to how we are to do this. The emphasis in Christian fraternal correction should not be repayment of a debt that I may hold against my brother for his sin. Later in the same chapter (Mt 18:21-35), Jesus offers a parable which challenges us to forgive the debts of those who sin against us as completely as our Father in heaven forgives our debts. Though, in the “Our Father,” we say, “forgive us our trespasses,” a closer translation might be, “forgive us our debts,” and this is the one condition that God places upon us: that we forgive as we are forgiven. In this week’s gospel, what is at stake is not the question of whether or not we ought to forgive a brother who sins against us. The answer to that question is unequivocal: “yes.” The question, rather, is how, within the Church, to help bring a brother back to the fullness of life that Christ offers: “if he listens to you, you have won over your brother” (Mt 18:15). The emphasis should not at all be on “my loss,” since we ought to “regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8). The only loss that should concern us is the loss of our brother from eternal life. We hope that by correcting our brother we may help him to gain eternal life.  And, if this is true, then when we speak with our brother who has sinned against us, then we ought to be willing to “suffer the loss of all things, and regard them as rubbish, in order that we may gain Christ” together with our brother (cf. Phil 3:8).

September 10th, 2017