Father Nathan Homily | August 30, 2020
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
— Matthew 18:20
Father Nathan | Homily
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
— MT 18:15
Kindness and Grace – The Tale of Two Altar Boys
In a little church in a small village, an altar boy serving the priest at Sunday Mass accidentally dropped the cruet of wine. The village priest struck the altar boy sharply on the cheek and in a gruff voice shouted, “Leave the altar and don’t come back.” That boy became Tito, the Communist leader.
In the cathedral of a large city in another place, another altar boy serving the bishop at Sunday Mass also accidentally dropped the cruet of wine. With a warm twinkle in his eyes, the bishop gently whispered, “Someday you will be a priest.”
Do you know who that boy was?
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
How do you deal with others who have caused problems for you?
Jesus has the answer in today’s Gospel:
- straight talk
- due process
- and most of all, with grace.
When the great nineteenth-century Spanish General, Ramon Narvaez, lay dying in Madrid, a priest was called in to give him last rites. “Have you forgiven your enemies?” the padre asked. “Father,” confessed Narvaez, “I have no enemies. I shot them all.”
Discipline and due Process
We are contemplating today based on the gospel lesson recorded for us in Matthew. Matthew 18, and especially verses 15-20, is often used in matters of Church discipline and matters of excommunication. These are our Lord’s instructions to His Church. Matthew 18 is also used in church organizations as the official grievance procedure – a church corporate policy as such.
The Lord calls each and every one of us to watch out for our fellow Christian. He calls us to speak the good news to each other when we fall to temptation. That good news is that we sinners have been forgiven for the sake of Jesus’ death on the cross. We are not alone; we are our brother’s keepers. Matthew 18 is not just church discipline or a communal personnel policy to keep people in line. It is the precious invitation of the gospel that is offered to each and every one of us.
We Are Not Alone, We Are Our Brothers Keeper
Sin is a Serious Business.
To understand the richness of the Gospel message of Matthew 18, we need to see these verses in context. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus reminds us of the seriousness of sin. He tells His disciples that,
it would be better for a person to have a millstone hung around their necks and be thrown into the sea than to lead a person into sin.
Then He says that it would be better for a person to cut off their hand or foot or pluck out their eye if these leads them to sin.
Why? Sin is a serious business.
It separates people from God and it breaks the relationship with others and it ruins the personal peace of mind and finally leads to eternal death. With such extreme consequences, sin is to be avoided at every cost.
Jesus Is Serious about Saving Sinners.
As serious as sin is Jesus is even more serious about saving sinners. Right after Jesus talks about sin, and right before our gospel lesson for today, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus said,
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
At this point, Jesus stops the parable. In a way, He is saying it is important that you get this right. He further explains what it means to go after the lost sheep.
“If you’re brother sins, go and tell him. If he listens to you have gained your brother.”
Your fellow Christians will sin. That is for sure. It is up to you to save them. It is not always going to be easy, but our Lord promises to be with you, as save the lost sheep that is your fellow Christian.
We Are Not Alone – Jesus, Our Brother, Keeps Us
We all have a faithful friend and brother in Jesus Christ. He is serious about confronting us with the sin in our lives. Sin is a sin with serious consequences. We all have sinned when we failed to correct our erring brothers and sisters when we didn’t open our mouths or opened them in gossip.
We have acted like the lost sheep to the peril of our souls. All we like sheep have gone astray. The Lord sought us out and found us. He rescued us from ourselves at the cross.
He calls us to trust and believe in Him. Now he calls us to continue His saving work with the people of this church.
He has made a marvelous promise that where two or three of us are He will be there too. With His authority and with His voice of the gospel He uses us to call sinners to repent. He calls us to receive them back home with forgiving arms.
We are not alone; we are our brothers’ keeper.
Jesus Christ loves sinners.
He loves you.
He is like the man who left the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one sheep. You are that one sheep. Our Lord rejoices over you as if you were the only one lost. As the father of the prodigal son He rejoices, for the one that was dead is alive and the one that was lost has been found.
In Jesus, we are not alone. He is our brothers’ keeper and he is ours.
We are our Brothers Keepers | Our Christian Responsibility
Modern believers tend to think that they have no right to intervene in the private lives of their fellow believers; so they pay no heed to the serious obligation of encouraging an erring brother or sister to give up his or her sinful ways.
Others evade the issue saying, “As a sinner, I don’t have the moral courage or the right to correct someone else.” But Jesus emphatically affirms that we are our brothers’ keepers, and we have the serious obligation to correct one who has injured us in order to help our neighbors retain their Christian Faith and practice, especially through our model Christian lives.
Have we offered advice and encouragement to our friends and neighbors and co-workers when it was needed, and loving correction in private where that was possible? Let us admit the fact that a great part of the indifference to religion shown by our young men and women is due to lack of parental control, training, and example.
If the children of Christian families grow up as practical pagans, it is mainly because the Christian Faith has meant little or nothing to their parents. It is a well-known fact that when parents are loyal to their Faith in their daily lives, their children will, as a rule, be loyal to it.
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Past Messages from Father Nathan
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This is the year of Saint Joseph December 8, 2020, is the 15th anniversary of the Declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter entitled Patris corde (“With a Father’s Heart”).