Intro to Readings
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

The prophet Ezekiel reports a vision in which God gives him certain very clear responsibilities.

Second Reading

Saint Paul spent much of the Letter to the Romans discussing the Law of Moses and its inability to save anyone. Now he pronounces a higher law.

Gospel

Jesus instructs his followers on some fine points of getting along with each other. He gives all his disciples an authority he has given previously to Simon Peter.

Word-Sunday.com

by Larry Broding

Click image to watch

FIRST READING

The call of the watchman

What “callings” do you hear? How do they differ from each other?

PSALM

Praise with a catch

Have you ever been in prayer, only to be upset when you were disturbed? Why were you so upset?

SECOND READING

In public

How are Christians to act in public? What happens when Christians cause scandal?

GOSPEL

Reconciling with other Christians

When others hurt you, do you confront them, reconcile with them, or just ignore them? Which way is the most effective? Which way is the most moral?

Doctrinal Homily Outlines

by Kevin Aldrich

If your brother sins against you

Central idea: Admonishing the sinner

Doctrine: Fraternal correction

Practical application: How to give fraternal correction


Living the Word

by Fr. Frank Bird, sm

This Sunday’s Discussion Guide

(PDF Download)

INTROFIRST READINGPSALMSECOND READINGGOSPELCONNECTIONSQUESTIONSCHURCH FATHERSCATECHISM
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First Reading

commentary

Thus says the LORD: "You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me." — Ezekiel 33:7

The Catholic Watchman is a men's ministry launched in 2016 in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It's mission (watch inspiring 1 minute video) is for Catholic men to live up to their duty to be protectors, providers and leaders of their families.  View Facebook page and article archive at The Catholic Spirit for more information.

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Responsorial Psalm

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the rock of our salvation. — Psalm 95:1

Choirs push to resume in-person rehearsals - (VIDEO) Canadian choir directors want to be allowed to resume in-person rehearsals, saying it can be done safely with physical distancing and masks.

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Second Reading

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. — Romans 13:9b-10

In today's second reading, St. Paul quotes what many consider the most famous verse in Leviticus, “Ve-ahavta le-re’acha ka-mocha” (Lev. 19:18). Seen above in traditional Hebrew lettering, it is translated, 'You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself'." Source: Etsy.com

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Gospel

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. — Matthew 18:15

There is no better example of how sin is confronted with the love of Jesus Christ than Pope St. John Paul II's visit to the jail where the man who shot him in 1981 was imprisoned. Following the shooting, the pope asked people to “pray for my brother…whom I have sincerely forgiven”.  St. John Paul confronted sin face to face in 1983 when he forgave his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca. Rev. Anthony Ligato in his reflection, Confront sin with love of Jesus, states, "It would have been so easy for St. John Paul to harden his heart, but Christ's own sacred heart, which is the fullness of reconciling love, had filled it long before, so the pope could forgive."
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commentary

Thus says the LORD: "You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me." — Ezekiel 33:7

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First Reading

Ezekiel 33:7-9

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The prophet as a sentinel

FIRST READING—These verses contain a message for the prophet himself and for his pastoral responsibilities towards his own people now living in exile in Babylon. Ezekiel compares his role to that of a sentinel. A sentinel standing on top of a city wall would alert the people about any approaching danger. Once the sentinel sounds a warning, the responsibility for action lies in the hands of the people. In a similar way, the prophet’s task is to warn the sinner of the impending disaster resulting from sin. Once the prophet speaks a word of warning, it is up to the sinner to listen to the word and act. If the prophet fails to issue the warning, he will be held responsible for the disaster that will befall the sinner.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

The vocation of a spiritual watchman

FIRST READING—Today’s theme is crime and punishment. It is also the favourite theme of politicians in an election year. Ezekiel, the first prophet to receive his call in exile, was one of the deportees to Babylon around 597 BC. Ezekiel was a priest and his chief interest lay in the temple and its liturgy. He also use the phrase Son of man to refer to himself when describing his revelation from God. Ezekiel describes himself as a watchman. In times of danger a watchman is essential. He is the one to give the early warning signal. The blast of the trumpet brooks no delay. If anyone dies it is the responsibility of the watchman. We find the same image in 1 Corinthians, “If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound who will prepare themselves for battle.” Ezekiel describes his vocation as spiritual watchman for Israel. He knows God expects him to warn of spiritual danger particularly the danger to their faith from their exile. Ezekiel has grave responsibilities to warn but of course the people are free to listen of not.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

You are responsible for warning the wicked

FIRST READING—The Lord has made Ezekiel responsible for the people who are disregarding the terms of the holy Covenant. It is up to him to speak God’sword of warning to them. We would say that it is already too late: Jerusalem has fallen; the people are being taken into exile; Ezekiel himself is being deported to Babylon. But God’s Covenant is binding even in the Exile. So, Ezekiel must speak. He speaks to the people of their responsibility for one another. He is not the only one charged by God to warn ofinfidelity; the members of the community are responsible for warning one another. Those who do not exercise this responsibility will be held accountable for the sins of those they do not warn!

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The role of a prophet

FIRST READING—This short reading from Ezekiel offers a quick reminder of why nobody with good sense would aspire to be a prophet. God addresses Ezekiel and describes the prophetic vocation like that of a watchman, a sentinel who has to keep alert, not just for the neighborhood or town, but for the entire house of Israel. That means that the prophet has to pay attention to everybody and what they are doing.

Then, if God decides that someone should be reprimanded, the prophet is duty-bound to deliver the warning or else he will suffer whatever was due to the sinners he didn’t call out. The prophet inherits a terrible dilemma: either speak out or bear the responsibility for the evil actions of others. Since people generally react very badly to being told that they have to change, the poor prophet’s only choice seems to be whether to suffer now or later. Either way, the future looks dim. There is the outside chance that the people will actually listen and change their ways. That’s a win-win situation that the experienced prophet doesn’t often expect. (Of course, we can remember the prophet Jonah who actually pouted when the people repented and God relented — but, that’s another story.)

As we saw last week with Jeremiah, when prophets allow the word of God to inhabit them, it changes them. They have been influenced by God in the sense that God’s word begins to flow through them, and they will never be the same. As they say of young adults who have served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, they are ruined for life. They can never be comfortably complacent or facilely turn a blind eye to injustice and suffering. They will never again be able to stand by in innocent passivity while others set off on the road to perdition.

One of the conclusions we can draw from Ezekiel’s predicament is that the prophet really has to be a man or woman of God. The only way to have what it takes to carry through in the vocation to prophecy is to develop a profound love of God and of God’s people, and a desire to bring them together.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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The watchman of Israel

In the First Reading, God tells the prophet/priest Ezekiel that he will be held accountable for the souls of the covenant people who are sinners if he fails to speak out against their bad behavior and to call them to repentance. It is the same obligation of the ministerial priesthood today. As Jesus’ representatives, they must teach the New Covenant people of God about the dangers of sin, the rewards of righteousness, and the covenant obligations the people have accepted as baptized and confirmed members of Jesus’ Kingdom of the Church.

Exploring the Text

The phrase 'Son of Man'

“Son of man” means “human person.”  It was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself.  He used “Son of Man to refer to Himself thirty times in the Gospel of Matthew.  However, Yahweh referred to the prophets Ezekiel (eighty-three times), Daniel (once), and the divine Messiah in Daniel’s vision in 7:13 by the same title.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Ezekiel as a watchman

In our reading, Yahweh commissioned the 6th century B.C. priestly prophet, Ezekiel, as the “watchman” over the covenant people living in exile in Babylon.  Our passage is the second warning God gave His prophet concerning his responsibilities as Israel’s “watchman,” repeating the same command from earlier in the prophet’s ministry in Ezekiel 3:16-21.

In the cities and towns of Biblical times, the watchmen stationed on the city walls or out on the hills were the vanguard of the people’s defensive system.  They were responsible for sounding a warning when there was danger.  In this passage, God told the prophet Ezekiel, God’s emissary to the covenant people in exile (Ez 1:2), that he has a similar mission.  It is his responsibility to warn the people when they were tolerating sin within the covenant community (Ez 1:7).  If he knows there is sin and does not warn the people, then not only will the people will suffer punishment, but God will hold Ezekiel accountable for his failure to warn them (Ez 1:8).  However, if God’s prophet warns the people, and they refuse to repent, they shall suffer for their sins, but Ezekiel will not experience punishment for the people’s failure (Ez 1: 9).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Church's responsibility today

This accountability for teaching about sin is the same obligation placed upon the ordained priesthood of today. The Church has the responsibility to teach the New Covenant people of God about sin, righteousness, and the covenant obligations they have accepted as baptized and confirmed members of Jesus’ Kingdom of the Church. Like the warning to His prophet Ezekiel, God will also hold the New Covenant priesthood accountable for any failures as the guardians of the salvation of the new Israel of the Church. However, this is not an easy task. Priests are often harshly criticized for speaking out to their congregations on the hard topics of divorce, abortion, contraception, and premarital sex. If you have a priest who fearlessly preaches against sin, give him your support, and tell him he is a faithful guardian of the people of God.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): The Catholic Watchman is a men's ministry launched in 2016 in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It's mission (watch inspiring 1 minute video) is for Catholic men to live up to their duty to be protectors, providers and leaders of their families.  View Facebook page and article archive at The Catholic Spirit for more information.
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Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the rock of our salvation. — Psalm 95:1

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Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—The message imparted in the first and third reading: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts,”echoes the call to conversion.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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A call to praise and obedience

God continually calls every generation to act according to the refrain we sing in the Responsorial Psalm: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”  In the psalm, we hear the voice of God speaking to His people “today,” warning them not to fall into the sin of rebellion like the Israelites of the Exodus generation.  The Israelites of that first generation swore obedience to God in the sacramental bond of the Sinai Covenant.  However, they failed to trust God, preferring their desires and plans over God’s divine plan for His people.

Members of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus are guilty of the same sin of rebellion when they act according to their understanding and not in obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ and His Church.  The result is that they separate themselves from fellowship with the Lord and covenant unity with His Church.  They will have to face the consequences of their rebellion, like the members of the Exodus generation who did not live to see the Promised Land (except for faithful Joshua and Caleb).

Exploring the Text

Overview of the psalm

The psalmist begins with an invitation to praise Yahweh, the hope of the people’s salvation (verses 1).  Next, the psalmist invites the people to offer God their thanks and hymns of praise in the Liturgy of worship (verse 2).  Yahweh is the divine King of the people He created when He took them out of bondage in Egypt and made them into a free people (verse 6).  He guides and protects His people like a shepherd cares for his flock (verse 7).

In verse 8, we hear the voice of God speaking to his people “today,” warning them not to fall into sin like their ancestors of the Exodus generation (Ex 17:17; Num 20:2-13; Ps 78).  The warning is to avoid the judgment of the rebellious Exodus generation, so a repeat of their failures will not happen to the people “today” who are praising the Lord in their Liturgy of worship.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Putting God to the test

9 where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.

Tempting God or “putting God to the test” (Dt 6:16; Ps 106:14; Mal 3:10) means testing His goodness and fidelity by attempting to force Him to act, implying that His previous deeds are not enough proof of His love.

When we recite this psalm, we should understand the word “today” literally.  These verses are a warning to the covenant people in every generation to avoid a repetition of the rebellious nature of the Exodus generation.  The people of that generation had sworn obedience to God in the sacramental bond of a covenant union (Ex 24:3, 8).  However, they failed to trust God and demonstrate their faithfulness to His commands.  They preferred their own plans over God’s divine plan for His people.

Those who are guilty of repeating the sin of rebellion like the Exodus generation and acting according to their own understanding instead of acting according to the commandments of Jesus Christ will also face divine judgment (see Jn 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jn 2:4-6).  Like the Exodus generation, they will never live to enter into the “Promised Land” (Num 14:30, 35), but the punishment is more severe because the “Promised Land” of the generations since the Advent of Christ is Heaven.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Choirs push to resume in-person rehearsals - (VIDEO) Canadian choir directors want to be allowed to resume in-person rehearsals, saying it can be done safely with physical distancing and masks.
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You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. — Romans 13:9b-10

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Second Reading

Romans 13:8-10

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Centrality of love

In the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds the Roman Christians, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, quoting from Jesus’ summation of the seven of the Ten Commandments concerning the obligation to love one’s fellow man/woman.  To obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves is to express concern for their salvation.  Love is the central requirement of the Christian life.  It is how Jesus commanded us to behave towards one another when He said: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  It is a holy love generated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and intended to flow outward from the souls of Christians to transform the whole world by Christ’s life-giving love.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

No reflection for this Sunday

SECOND READING—Go to Sister’s reflection for first reading and gospel.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Love is the fulfillment of the law

SECOND READING—Paul speaks about debts and aboutowing.He hasjust finished teaching the Romans about their duty to obey lawful authority. He carries this sense of duty and obligation right into the realm of love! Not that he would have us love one another out of a sense of obligation; rather,love has its own inner dynamism which far surpasses the power of the law to make us do something. But Paul, nevertheless, has a healthy respect for the power of contracts and of laws to make us do what we have promised to do. Just as we would not be able to neglect doing what wehave been obliged by law to do, so we should not neglect to love, because that is the supreme law of the Lord Jesus Christ.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

A succinct summary of Christian morality

SECOND READING—Paul’s message to the Romans provides a fitting follow-up to Ezekiel. Ezekiel was called to be a prophet, a watchman, the one who would cry out a warning to those about to lose themselves in their own egoism. When Paul says that we owe nothing to anyone except love, prophetic action on behalf of others is surely included as an element of that love.

This selection from Romans may be one of the most succinct summaries of Christian morality we can hope to find.  Augustine said it in another way when he preached “love and do what you will” (Sermon on 1 John 4). Both of these echo Jesus’ teaching that love of God and neighbor summarize the law and the prophets.

One of the notable things about Paul’s instruction on love is that he puts no limits on it. “Owe nothing to anyone.” He isn’t simply referring to the community at hand, to the Jews, to friends or enemies, but to absolutely everyone, including the stranger you have never met, but read about in the newspaper.

The word Paul uses for this love is usually written as agape. That’s a different love from what the Greek language calls eros, the relationship of lovers. It’s also distinct from philia, the love of friendship and family. In the first place, agape describes God’s love for humanity. Agape describes a non-self-interested, whole-hearted, generous desire for and commitment to the good of another. Taken in that sense, such love implies immensely more than what a minimalist might find in Paul’s injunction to do no evil to the neighbor.

Although affection may be a part of it, agape is not essentially emotional. Rather than springing from the simple spontaneity of feeling, agape requires decision, a commitment to hold others in high regard, to recognize others’ importance and value. The love described as agape involves an ongoing process. It requires an awareness of others. That awareness will necessarily lead to knowledge of their needs. That knowledge will in turn demand a response.

Michel Quoist, a French priest-poet of the 20th century, expressed the cost of agape in a prayerful reflection he began by asking, “Lord, why did you tell me to love all men, my brothers?” The prayer goes on to explain that once he opened the door to one, it was inevitably open to everyone. As he comes to the end of his prayer he protests: “I don’t belong to myself any longer. There’s no more room for me.” As a postscript to his reflection, Quoist gives God’s response to his prayer: “Don’t worry, you have gained all. While men came in to you, I, your Father, I, your God, slipped in among them.”

When Paul talks about loving one another, he’s not calling for a sentimental Hallmark moment. As Quoist’s prayer / poem  explains, loving is costly business. It is also the only way to unite with God. Paul could have been more forthright and said: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love. That will cost you absolutely everything … and give you even more.”

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Love fulfills the Law

In the Second Reading, after St. Paul described God’s redemptive works in Christ in his letter to the Roman Christians, he defines what should be the human response to God’s love.  The answer, Paul writes, is to: Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice to God.

Paul reminds the Roman Christians and us not to conform to the norms of a sinful world.  Instead, Christians must be transformed by living in the image of Christ as His witnesses of hope and faith to a world lost in sin.  When worshiping in His Divine Presence, we must prepare ourselves by being cleansed of all sin (mortal sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and venial sins in the Penitential Rite).  We present ourselves to Him with purified souls so that, as we walk forward in the Eucharistic procession, we come prepared to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God just as Jesus offers His sinless life to us in the Eucharist.

Exploring the Text

The Christian's debt of love

13:8 Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

St. Paul writes that the only debt a Christian should owe is a debt of love.  Paul advises avoiding the obligation of debt since it is a condition that makes one a “slave” of the person who holds the debt.  However, he says to owe a debt of love is quite different because to love the other person is to fulfill God’s Law, referring to the Law of the Ten Commandments which is a law of love of God and our brothers and sisters in the human family (Mt 22:37-40).  

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Christian love and the Law

13:8 Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

St. Paul’s focus in this passage is on Christian love and the Law.  Love is the central requirement of the Christian life.  It is how Jesus commanded us to behave towards one another when He said: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Holiness is at the core of life-giving love, flowing from the Most Holy Trinity into the soul of the believer.  It is a holy love generated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Acts of love must flow outward from the souls of Christians to every person they meet, transforming the world by Christ’s life-giving love.  St. John wrote to the faithful of the Church concerning the obligation to share Christ’s love: My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love (1 Jn 4:7-8).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
How best to demonstrate our love for God

9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

At the end of verse 9 when Paul writes, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” he quotes both from Jesus’ summation of the Ten Commandments dealing with the love of one’s brother or sister in the human family in Matthew 22:37-40 and from the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19:17-18.  In other words, this is not a new teaching; it was a teaching from the old Law affirmed by Jesus in the new Law.

Jesus summarized the Law of the Ten Commandments when He said: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets too” (Mt 22:37-40).

Paul also quoted from both these passages in Galatians 5:13-14, writing: After all, brothers, you were called to be free; do not use your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love, since the whole of the Law is summarized in the one commandment: You must love your neighbor as yourself. 

The point is that loving one’s neighbor and treating him with unselfish love is the best way we can demonstrate our love for God, who, after all, created our neighbor.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Significance of stating four commandments

In verse 9, Paul lists four commandments that are directly related to “love of neighbor” from the Ten Commandments (see Ex 20:13-17 and Dt 5:17-21)

  1. You shall not commit adultery.
  2. You shall not kill.
  3. You shall not steal.
  4. You shall not covet.

The number four in Scripture represents the earth.  Therefore, in quoting these four commandments, Paul summarizes the laws of conduct that order our right relationship with our brothers and sisters in the human family.  He makes this clear by quoting Jesus’ commandment to love that sums up all the other commandments concerned with our relationship with humanity: You must love your neighbor as yourself. But how is “love the fulfillment of the Law,” as Paul states in Romans 13:10?  Love fulfills God’s Law through faith in the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a gift of God’s grace.  We are now enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit through Christian baptism to live lives of self-sacrificial love and to love as Christ loved us.  Love generated by the power of the Spirit enables us to fulfill from our hearts the Law as promised by the 6th-century B.C. prophet Jeremiah.  In Jeremiah 31:31-33, the prophet wrote about God’s promise to spiritually restore the covenant people.  Yahweh declared: Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new ovenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, but not like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, even though I was their Master, Yahweh declares.  No, this is the covenant I shall make with the House of Israel when those days have come, Yahweh declares.  within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts.  Then I shall be their God, and they will be my people” (emphasis added).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): In today's second reading, St. Paul quotes what many consider the most famous verse in Leviticus, “Ve-ahavta le-re’acha ka-mocha” (Lev. 19:18). Seen above in traditional Hebrew lettering, it is translated, 'You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself'." Source: Etsy.com
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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. — Matthew 18:15

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 18:15-20

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Three steps to correcting a sinner

GOSPEL—In this Gospel, Jesus outlines for his disciples what one must do if a brother in the community sins against him. He gives three steps:

  • The first step is to reach out to the brother, state the offense, and allow the brother to privately repent of the wrong he has done. Notice in the first step that one is not to go to others to complain about the offender.
  • If that does not work, the offended person should take one or two other members (ideally guys who are 6 feet tall) of the community to help in a reconciliation effort.
  • If the second step does not work, the offender should be brought before the whole community. If he continues to be unrepentant, “treat him as you would a Gentile or tax collector,” i.e., as someone who has a disdain for the Gospel. Some scholars say that Matthew is telling his audience to excommunicate the unrepentant sinner. Others think that Jesus wants us to treat the sinner with unconditional love because that is how he treated Gentiles and tax collectors. Jesus is saying that if someone sins, no effort must be spared to bring about the reform of the sinner and keep him in the community. Jesus further says when the community or even two or three members of the community prays about this issue, their decision will be affirmed in heaven.
©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

The motif of temptation

GOSPEL—In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of spiritual correction. The context is important. Jesus speaks of rifts between family members. The community of Jesus is based on Trinity it is not based on a hierarchy, with members over members. All are brothers and sisters so spiritual correction will follow a different pattern from a parent child model.

This address on fraternal correction is prefaced by two very important themes; care of little ones and care for the lost sheep. Christian discipline is established in care.

Discipline or correction must not be of a kind that would give scandal to the newcomer to the group, or to the religiously naïve. This is underlined by the warning that lack of concern for the spiritually frail will bring condemnation.

The second group of people to consider are the “lost”. These are to receive special treatment. It is enough that some have wandered off without their restoration being an occasion of added pain.

So having emphasised the need for discernment we are ready to reflect on the method which was probably used by the community of Matthew.

1. If the matter is between two members they should seek to work it out between themselves.

2. If the two cannot achieve harmony bring in a mediator or use a third person to ensure that each is heard.

3. If there is still no resolution then involve the local community, either a formal assembly or a council of elders. If the person at fault won’t accept the decision of the elders or the group then they cease to belong to the community.

It is specifically in the prayer for unity prayed by the group that the presence of Jesus is active to heal and restore. Having grasped the importance of reconciliation Peter asks his now famous, question, “How many times should I forgive a brother who has offended me?” and with a burst of bid-heartedness, “Seven times?”

Jesus replies, “Not seven, but four hundred and ninety times!” In other words forgiveness is not a numbers game but a kingdom sign. As God does not keep scores so we in imitation of Jesus choose love above all things.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.

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Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

You are responsible for warning your brother and sister!

GOSPEL—All of Chapter 18 in Matthew has been called Jesus’discourse on the Church. Matthew was particularly concerned with the instruction of the leaders in his community. They would be responsible for the good order and for the development of that community. Their style of government had to be patterned on the teachings of Jesus in a most significant manner. Our Church leaders today need to read this chapter again and again.

In Chapter 16, Peter is the one made responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of the Church community; in Chapter 18, each member of the community shares in that responsibility. All have to do what is necessary for the community to remain faithful to the Lord. The defection of one will have an impact on all.

The procedures given by Matthew here have their resonance in other manuals of procedure given in parallel communities at the time. TheManual of Discipline which guided the Essene community at Qumran provided for the rebuking of one another by the members: onlyin truth, humility and charity,never in anger or ill temper. Warnings were to be given on the same day as the offense. One was not to bring the matter before the congregation without first having sought the intercession of witnesses. Rabbinical literature also would have similar procedures outlined for the reprimanding of wayward members.

If the offender refuses to listen even to the Church, let the offender be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector. Church leaders have appealed to this passage especially to justify the practice of excommunication. Let them be excluded from the community as you would exclude a Gentile or a tax collector.

But, there is an alternative interpretation of this passage. It has been suggested that we should read this passage to mean: Christians ought to treat offending members the way Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors! Jesus did not shut these people out; rather, he went out to them in a special way, even when religious law said that they should be avoided. He reached out to sinners; he ate with tax collectors. He touched lepers. He forgave sinners rather than condemn them.

The Church todaywill be more faithful to the Gospel when it stops condemning and starts reaching out to all who have transgressed God’s law and Church laws. Individual Christians and Catholics will be more obedient to the Gospel when they do what Jesus did with sinners.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Settling problems in community

GOSPEL—The Lectionary cycle skips over a good amount of Matthew’s Gospel between last week and today. When we approach today’s Gospel it helps to see it in its context. The section beginning at Chapter 18 opens with disciples asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They were certainly not expecting him to put a little child in the middle of their debate circle, making her or him the center of attention. Perhaps it was the child’s amazement at being singled out by the area’s most famous adult that made Jesus say that anyone who wants to understand the kingdom has to be ready to be just that surprised. From there, Jesus went on to warn the disciples never to lead one of the innocents into sin. He added that they should detach themselves completely from causes of sin — even if it required an amputation! (Matthew 18:8-9). Then, in a quick turn-around, he went on to say that, if one of the community started to drift, they should do everything possible to seek and bring him or her back, just like a shepherd would search for a lost lamb.

Having broached the topic of community, he talked about how to settle the problems that would inevitably arise among them. With this, Jesus touches back into the idea of prophecy, but he’s brought it directly home to the little group closest to him and to one another.

Jesus wasn’t simply presenting a problem-solving technique, although it is a good methodology even before we understand its theology. For step one, Jesus starts out by setting the stage like this: “If your brother sins against you. . .” The situation is clear, one person in the community feels injured and thinks that the other has done something wrong. A lot of people in that situation will start out by complaining, not to the person with whom they have a grievance, but with anybody they think will listen and agree with them.

The approach Jesus counsels feels much riskier because it requires honest dialogue and avoids amassing a team of supporters who will have been swayed by one side of the story. Following Jesus’ methodology, the more serious the grievance, the more the injured party will be acting like a good shepherd trying to bring back one who is deviating from promoting the common good.

Step Two: If an honest attempt to dialogue comes to an impasse, the person who has taken on the role of shepherd needs to engage companions to help in the process. Now, the two or three who go together must remember that their goal is to win over the other, to restore the community.

Step Three: If the efforts of a few are unsuccessful, the case needs to be brought to the community as a whole. Remembering the goal is crucial in this process. The aim is always to restore the offender to integrity in the community. Throughout the process, all the participants will be called upon to examine their own integrity and commitment to the common good. Thus, in Jesus’ methodology, seeking the lost becomes an intense exercise in deepening communal bonds.

Finally, Jesus says that if the community cannot bring someone back into union, they are to treat that one as “a Gentile or a tax collector.” Note that he didn’t say to treat the person as an adversary, but rather as one who has not yet received the message of the kingdom.

That understanding gives a context to Jesus’ final saying. Who are the two or three of whom he speaks? They are the ones who are seeking the common good. The risen Christ promises that they never need do that alone.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Conduct toward a brother or sister who sins

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus addresses the subject of covenant members engaged in sin but remaining in the fellowship of the faith community.  Jesus gives four steps are we to follow when a “brother” or “sister” has fallen into error to bring them to repentance and renew their fellowship with God and the community.  He also affirms the Church’s authority to “bind” and “loose” in judging sin.

In the sixth century B.C., God established the priestly prophet Ezekiel as the “watchman” over the “house of Israel,” and Jesus established His Apostles and disciples and their successors as guardians of the salvation of the “new Israel” that is His Church.  As this generation’s disciples of the Lord, we must bravely take up the obligation to safeguard the teachings of Jesus Christ within the covenant family of His Kingdom of the Church.  Jesus calls us to offer correction in brotherly love by judging sin to keep from having wrongs tolerated and corrupting the community of the faithful.  However, we do not have the authority to judge the soul of the sinner; to judge the condition of one’s soul is a prerogative that belongs only to God.

We will all be held accountable for our misdeeds, but those in positions of responsibility as shepherds of the flock of God’s covenant people will also face divine judgment if they fail to minister to God’s covenant children with mercy, justice, and truth in sharing the Gospel of salvation.  It is spiritually healthy to recall God’s two warnings to the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3:17-18 repeated in 33:7-9: “When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me.  If I say to someone wicked, ‘You will die,’ and you do not warn this person or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live; that wicked person will die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death” (Ezekiel 3:17-18).  Like the warning to His prophet Ezekiel, God will also hold the New Covenant priesthood accountable for any sins they fail to address as the guardians of the salvation of the new Israel of the Church.  However, this is not an easy task.  Priests are often harshly criticized for speaking out to their congregations on the hard topics of divorce, abortion, contraception, and premarital sex.  If you have a priest who fearlessly preaches against sin, give him your support, and tell him he is a faithful guardian of the people of God.

Exploring the Text

Four steps

In this passage, Jesus addresses the subject of brothers or sisters engaged in sin but remaining in the fellowship of the faith community.  Jesus gives four steps to follow when a “brother” or “sister” has fallen into error in verses 15-20:

  1. Go to the person within the community who is in error or who has wronged you and privately tell him his fault.
  2. If he listens, reconcile with him.  But if he does not listen, take others along and speak to him a second time so that you have witnesses to the discussion.
  3. If he refuses to listen or mend his ways, take the problem to the Church (first the priest or possibly the Bishop).
  4. If he refuses to listen even to the Church and remains in sin, then he or she is to be considered outside the fellowship of the community (excommunication and denied the Sacraments).

The first step in the process of brotherly correction comes from the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19:17~ You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. 

The second step from Deuteronomy 19:15 ~ One witness alone shall not take the stand against a man in regard to any crime of any offense of which he may be guilty; a judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

In the third step, if the person refuses to repent, the offense becomes a judicial case under the jurisdiction of the Church’s leadership.

In the fourth and final step, the Church may impose the redemptive judgment of excommunication.  The drastic measure in separating a covenant believer from the Sacraments is a last resort to attempt to bring that person to repentance and back into communion with God and fellowship with his covenant brothers and sisters (CCC 1444-45).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
What about the behavior of those outside the Church

17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church [ekklesia].  If he refuses to listen even to the church [ekklesia], then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. 

All Gentiles, who were outside of the community of the faithful before the birth of the New Covenant Church at Pentecost (Acts 2), were considered to be sinners, and “tax collectors” was a metaphor for sinners in general. We have the responsibility to correct those within the Christian family of our faith communities who are in sin, but do we have the responsibility to correct those who are not Christians?  We are responsible for the conduct of Christians within the Church, and we have the responsibility to preach the Gospel of salvation to those outside the Church.  However, as for those who choose to live steeped in sin outside the Church, we are to avoid them (Mt 18:17).  We must leave them to God’s discipline (1 Cor 5:13a) and the judgments of the civil authorities.   Also see Mt 18:17; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Mk 4:11-12; 1 Cor 5:12-13; Col 4:5; 1 Thes 4:12; 1 Tim 3:7.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Binding and loosing imagery''

18 Amen, I say to you [plural], whatever you bind [plural] on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [plural] on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Except for the plural form of the pronoun “you” and the plural verbs “bind” and “loose,” this passage is almost identical to what Jesus said to St. Peter in Matthew 16:19b ~ “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  In Matthew 18:18, Jesus gave the same authoritative power to “bind and loose” that he gave to St. Peter, the Vicar (chief minister) of His earthly Kingdom in Matthew 16:19.  He now gives this authority to His other ministers who are, together with Peter, form the hierarchy of the New Covenant Church.

The Greek word ekklesia supports this interpretation.  Ekklesia, or the “called out ones,” k(q)ahal in Hebrew (which we translate into English as “church”) only occurs in the Gospels in these two passages in Matthew 16:18 and 18:17.  There are many examples in Jewish literature of this same “binding and loosing” imagery.  In those cases, the references are to giving authoritative teaching or the imposition of the ban of exile from the community (excommunication) or lifting of such a ban.  Jesus will repeat the declaration of this power and authority to the Apostles assembled in the Upper Room on Resurrection Sunday (Jn 20:22-23).  See the same “binding and loosing” or “open and shut” imagery in Isaiah 22:22 concerning the authority of the Davidic king’s chief steward/vicar.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The hierarchy of the Church

It is clear from these three passages (Mt 16:19, 18:18, and Jn 20:22-23) that the hierarchy of the Church has the authority of heaven itself in passing verdicts on what kinds of behavior are considered acceptable within the community of believers.  It is an authority that did not end with the deaths of the Apostles.  In Acts 1:15-26, the eleven surviving Apostles, after the death of Judas Iscariot, chose a twelfth Apostle to take the place of Judas.  It was their understanding that Jesus intended the authoritative hierarchy of His Kingdom to continue.  The hierarchy of the Church, established by Jesus through Peter and the Apostles, continues through their successors in the Universal Magisterium, composed of the Pope and the Council of Bishops.  They have the authority of heaven in passing verdicts on:

  • the forgiveness of sin
  • authoritative teaching and the interpretation of Sacred Scripture
  • the conduct of Christians that can lead to reproof or excommunication

See CCC 553.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Two or three witnesses

19 Again, [amen], I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Jesus’ statement in verse 20 recalls the judicial ruling in Mosaic Law that called for two or three witnesses to testify against the accused in a trial (Dt 19:15).  But in this case, when believers gather to pray in one accord in the name of Jesus, He is their witness, standing in their midst and receiving their petition.  In the context of this passage, united prayer is a petition for the Lord’s intervention in the life of a brother or sister whose soul is in peril because of sin or for the Lord’s assistance.  Bible scholar John Nolland notes that “behind the binding and loosing of verse 18 stands the prayer of verse 19” (Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, page 749).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' promise of his presence

there am I [I AM] in the midst of them.

Jesus encouraged both private and public prayer, but here He confirms the power of faith expressed in communal prayer with the promise of His presence, as we pray in the Intercessory Prayers during the Mass (see CCC 1088 and 1373).  Jesus’ promise “there I AM in the midst of them” (the better translation) recalls a prophecy about the Messiah from Matthew 1:23, quoting Isaiah 7:14 and the promise Jesus will make in Matthew 28:20.  His promise in Matthew 28:20 recalls the title “Emmanuel” (meaning “God with us”) given in Isaiah 7:14 and repeated as fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew 1:23.  It was after Jesus’ resurrection that He promised the disciples, “And behold, I AM with you always, until the end of the age” (underlining added for emphasis).  When we pray together with one accord in Jesus’ name, we can have confidence that God fulfills this promise.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): There is no better example of how sin is confronted with the love of Jesus Christ than Pope St. John Paul II's visit to the jail where the man who shot him in 1981 was imprisoned. Following the shooting, the pope asked people to “pray for my brother…whom I have sincerely forgiven”.  St. John Paul confronted sin face to face in 1983 when he forgave his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca. Rev. Anthony Ligato in his reflection, Confront sin with love of Jesus, states, "It would have been so easy for St. John Paul to harden his heart, but Christ's own sacred heart, which is the fullness of reconciling love, had filled it long before, so the pope could forgive."

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"I find it dangerous to have the Church playing God! We do not have a very good record of absolute wisdom in these matters. The Church has been wrong so many times in the past in trying to separate the good from the bad."

When the Church is wrong

Pastoral Connection

by Rev. Clement D. Thimbodeau

The Church will always be responsible for the deeds of its members. We answer to public opinion for the behaviors of all who call themselves Catholic. The world holds us responsible, whether or not we want to be held responsible. We are blamed for the evil that our brothers and sisters do in this world.

When I was younger, we used to recite the Marks of the Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. The Church was holy because it possessed the means to make us holy (word and sacraments), and because it was possessed of holy people, the saints. We were proud of the saints: the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, our patron saints, etc. We were glad to be identified with them. We sort of basked in their glory! We thought that the world would consider us holy because we were part of a community in which there were saints!

Now, all of that has changed. We are charged with the sins, crimes,and misdemeanors of priests who have been unfaithful. We are tainted with the somber colors of collective guilt and of community mediocrity. Catholics are no better than the rest. Catholics, too, practice abortion. Catholics get divorced at the same rate as everyone else. Catholics commit murders. Christians hate their neighbor like everyone else. We, too, scream for vengeance in capital punishments.

Some bishops proclaim excommunications against those who disagree with them on matters of doctrine and of Church policy. They believe that it is better to cleanse the Church community of those who bring us a bad name. We try to rid ourselves of the bad apples among us in this way. (Some have suggested that these same bishops should also excommunicate those who discriminate against women and other minorities; those who support capital punishment; those who oppress the poor, etc.!)

Our parishes will always have a proper mixture of the good and the bad! It is up to the Lord to separate and to exclude. I find it dangerous to have the Church playing God! We do not have a very good record of absolute wisdom in these matters. The Church has been wrong so many times in the past in trying to separate the good from the bad. It should have learned its lesson.

ECHOING GOD’S WORD – © 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017); Used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Galileo and the Cardinals, by Jean-Leon Huens (1921 – 1982)

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Faith Sharing

Questions

Opening Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Jesus, reconciling life’s hurts is one of the toughest parts of your teaching. Help me to grow in this area, to develop my ability and willingness to bring healing to a broken or wounded relationship. Amen.

Questions

Three sets of questions suitable for individual or group use. Choose one to best fit your purpose and time restraints: Faith Sharing Questions (by Fr. Eamon Tobin), Discussion Questions (by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau), and Scripture Study Questions (by Vince Contreras).

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Faith Sharing Questions

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?

2. Have you ever tried to intervene in the life of another adult who was on a destructive path or was about to make a decision that you believed would have destructive consequences? If so, how was that experience for you?

3. When someone hurts us, we have three options. Which option are you most likely to follow? Why?

  • Go to the offender, as today’s Gospel tells us.
  • Complain about the offender to someone else.
  • Keep the hurt inside and do nothing about it.

4. If you have grown in your ability to confront another, what has helped you grow in this way?5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Discussion Questions

1. Do you remember when pastors told their parishioners that they could not attend the wedding of their son or daughter who “got married outside the Church?”That they should not welcome such to sleep overnight in their homes because they were “living in sin?” What good was accomplished by such policies? What harm came to family life and to the Church community as a result of these policies?

2. How are we to deal with those who flaunt God’s law and are scornful of the Church’s laws? Is there a remedy suggested by these Scriptures? How should your parish deal with those who have married outside the Church? Can they be excluded from parish organizations? What about the issue of scandal? Are we speaking out of both sides of the mouth if we practice charity and compassion toward those who are violating Church laws?

3. A few bishops in the USA and in Italy have denied Church burial to some notorious members of the Mafia when they died. What do you think of this policy? Are sanctions ever justified in the Church?

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Scripture Study Questions

1. According to the 1st Reading, what is our responsibility toward those who we see endangering themselves by their own sinful actions? According to the 2nd Reading, what should be our spirit and approach when we find ourselves in this postion?

2. How does the Gospel passage reconcile with Matthew 7:3-5? How does it complementMatthew 16:13-20? What is the connection between verse 18 and the priestly power to forgive sins?

3. The reconciliation process described by Jesus involves what three stages? Why not go public right away? What authority is given to the followers of Jesus? To the leadership of the Church (see John 20:21-23)?

4. What does this passage say about the counsel of others? Of accountability to legitimate authority?

5. How do you handle disagreements or wrongs done to you by others, especially by family? What pattern do you follow? How close to the model presented in this passage is your method of handling problems?

© 2011 Vince Contreras. Used with permission.

Closing Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Lord Jesus, during your time on earth, you found yourself in several sticky situations. You modeled for us the power to speak up when we should.But sometimes it may be better not to speak. May your Holy Spirit be with us to help us to know when to speak up and when to be quiet.Mother Mary, un-doer of knots, pray for us. Amen.

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas uses:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to show/hide an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary of the Gospels.

Matthew 18:15-17

15. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a Publican.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lx.) Having above given a severe sentence against those who were the cause of offence, making them to fear on all sides; so now that they to whom the offence is offered should not fall into the opposite fault of supineness and indifference, seeking to spare themselves in all things, and so be puffed up; the Lord here checks such a tendency, commanding that they be reproved, saying, If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go, tell him his fault between thee and him alone.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 82. 1.) Our Lord admonishes us not to overlook one another’s faults, yet not so as seeking for matter of blame, but watching what you may amend. For our rebuke should be in love, not eager to wound, but anxious to amend. If you pass it by, you are become worse than he. He by doing you a wrong hath done himself a great hurt; you slight your brother’s wound, and are more to blame for your silence than he for his ill words to you.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, i. 9.) For often we wrongly shun to teach and admonish, or to rebuke and check the wicked, either because the task is irksome, or because we would escape their enmity, lest they should harm or obstruct us in temporal things, whether in gaining objects we desire, or in holding what our frailty fears to love. But if any one spares reproof of evil doers, because he seeks fitter occasion, or fears to make them worse, or that they may be an impediment to the good and pious living of other weak ones, or may grieve them, or turn them from the faith; herein there is seen no considerations of covetousness, but the prudence of charity. And much weightier reason have they who are set over the churches, to the end they should not spare to rebuke sin; though not even he is free from this blame, who, though not in authority, wots of many things in them to whom he is bound by the ties of this life, which should be touched by admonition or correction, but neglects to do so; shunning their displeasure on account of things which he does not unduly use in this life, but wherewith he is unduly delighted.

CHRYSOSTOM. It is to be noted, that onewhile the Lord brings the offender to him whom he has offended; as when he says, If thou remember that thy brother has might against thee, go, be reconciled to thy brother: (Mat. 5:23.) otherwhiles He bids him that has suffered the wrong to forgive his neighbour; as where he says, Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. (Mat. 6:12.) Here He has devised yet another method, for He brings him who has been grieved to him that grieved him, and therefore says, If thy brother sin against thee; for because he that did the wrong would not readily come to make amends, because of his shame, He draws to him him that has suffered the wrong; and not only draws him there, but with the very purpose of correcting what was done amiss; whence He says, Go and tell hint his fault.

RABANUS. He does not command us to forgive indiscriminately, but him only that will hearken and be obedient, and do penitence; that neither should forgiveness be unattainable, nor sufferance be too far relaxed.

CHRYSOSTOM. And He says not, Accuse him, nor, Chide with him, nor, Demand redress,—but, Tell him of his fault; that is, remind him of his sin, tell him what things you have suffered from him. For he is held down by anger or by shame, stupefied as one in a deep slumber. Wherefore it behoves you who are in your right senses to go to him who is in a disease.

JEROME. If then your brother have sinned against you, or hurt you in any matter, you have power, indeed must needs forgive him, for we are charged to forgive our debtors their debts. But if a man sin against God, it is no longer in our decision. But we do all tho contrary of this; where God is wronged we are merciful, where the affront is to ourselves we prosecute the quarrel.

CHRYSOSTOM. We are to tell his fault to the man himself who did it, and not to another, because the party takes it with the more patience from him, and above all when they are together alone. For when he who had a right to demand reparation, shews rather a carefulness to heal the sore, this has great power to propitiate.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 82, 7.) When any one therefore offends against us, let us be very careful, not for ourselves, for it is glorious to forget an injury; forget therefore your own wrong, but not the wound your brother has sustained; and tell him of his fault between him and you alone, seeking his amendment and sparing his shame. For it may be that out of shame he will seek to defend his fault, and thus you will only harden, while you sought to do him good.

JEROME. Thy brother is to be reproved in private, lest if once he has lost a sense of shame, he should continue in sin.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) But the Apostle says, Them that sin ‘rebuke before all, that others may fear to do the like. (1 Tim 5:20.) Sometimes therefore your brother is to be spoken to between thee and him alone, sometimes to be rebuked before all. What you must do first, attend and learn; If thy brother, says He, sin against thee, tell him of his fault between thee and him alone. Why? Because he has sinned against you? What is it that he has sinned against you? You know that he has sinned, and therefore since his sin was in private, let your rebuke be in private too. For if you alone know of his trespass, and proceed to rebuke him before all, you do not correct but betray him. Your brother has sinned against you; if you alone know thereof, then he has sinned against you only; but if he did you a wrong in the presence of many, then he has sinned against those also who were witnesses of his fault. Those faults then are to be rebuked before all, that are committed before all; those which are done in private, are to be rebuked in private. Discern times, and the Scriptures are consistent. But why do you correct your neighbour? Because his trespass has hurt yourself? Far be it from thee. If you do it from self-love, you do nought; if you do it from love of him, you do most rightly. Lastly, in what you shall say to him, keep in view for whose sake it is that you ought to do it, for your own or for his, for it follows, If he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother; do it therefore for his sake, that you may gain him. And do you confess that by your sin against man you were lost; for if you were not lost, how has he gained you? Let none then make light of it when he sins against his brother.

CHRYSOSTOM. In this it is made plain that enmities are a loss to both sides; for he said not, he has gained himself, but, you have gained him; which shews that both of you had suffered loss by your disagreement.

JEROME. For in saving another, salvation is gained for ourselves also. Chrys What you should do if he does not yield is added, If he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two. For the more shameless and stubborn he shews himself, the more studious should we be of applying the medicine, and not turn to wrath and hate. As the physician, if he see that the disease does not abate, he does not slack, but redoubles his efforts to heal. And observe how this reproof is not for revenge, but for correction, seeing his command is not to take two with him at first, but when he would not amend; and even then he does not send a multitude to him, but one or two, alleging the law, That in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. (Deut. 19:15.) This is that you may have witnesses that you have done all your part.

JEROME. Or it is to be understood in this way; If he will not hear thee, take with thee one brother only; if he yet will not hear, take a third, either from your zeal for his amendment, that shame or admonition may move him; or for the purpose of meeting before witnesses.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) Or, that if he affirm that it is no trespass, that they may prove to him that it is a trespass.

JEROME. If yet he will not hear them, then it must be told to many, that he may be held in abhorrence; so that he who could not be saved by his own sense of shame, may be saved by public disgrace; whence it follows, If he will not hear them, tell it to the Church.

CHRYSOSTOM. That is, to those that are over the Church.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) Or, tell it to the whole Church, that his infamy may be the greater. After all these things follows excommunication, which ought to be inflicted by the mouth of the Church, that is, by the Priest, and when he excommunicates, the whole Church works with him; as it follows, And if he will not hear the Church, let him by unto thee as an heathen, and a publican.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 82, 7.) That is, regard him no longer in the number of thy brethren. Though even thus we are not to neglect his salvation; for the heathens themselves, that is, the gentiles and pagans, we do not indeed regard in the number of our brethren, yet we ever seek their salvation.

CHRYSOSTOM. Yet the Lord enjoins nothing of this sort to be observed towards those who are without the Church, such as He does in reproving a brother. Of those that are without He says. If any smite thee on the one cheek, offer to him the other also. (Mat. 5:39.) as Paul speaks, What have I to do to judge them that are without? (1 Cor. 5:12.) But brethren he bids us reprove, and turn away from.

JEROME. That He says, As a heathen and a publican, shews that he is to be more abhorred, who under the name of a believer does the deeds of an unbeliever, than those that are openly gentiles. Those He calls publicans, who pursue worldly gain, and levy contributions by trading, cheating, and villainous frauds, and perjuries.

ORIGEN. Let us look well whether this precept extends to all sin; for what if any one sin any of those sins which are unto death, such as unnatural crimes, adultery, homicide, or effeminacy, it cannot be meant that such as these are to be admonished privately, and if he hear you, forthwith to say that you have gained him. And not rather first put him out of the Church, or only when remaining obstinate after monition before witnesses, and by the Church? One man, looking at the infinite mercy of Christ, will say, that since the words of Christ make no distinction of sins, it is to go against Christ’s mercy to limit His words only to little sins. Another, on the other hand, considering the words carefully, will aver, that they are not spoken of every sin; for that he that is guilty of those great sins is not a brother, but is called a brother, with whom, according to the Apostle, we ought not so much as to eat. But as they who expound this as referring to every sin give encouragement to the careless to sin; so, on the other hand, he, who teaches that one having sinned in little sins and such as are not deadly, is, when he has spurned the admonition of the witnesses and the Church, to be held as a heathen and a publican, seems to introduce too great severity. For whether he finally perishes, we are not able to decide. First, because he who has been thrice told of his fault and not hearkened, may hearken the fourth time; secondly, because sometimes a man does not receive according to his deeds, but beyond his trespass, which is good for him in this world; lastly, because He said not alone, Let him be as a heathen, but Let him be to thee. Whosoever then when reproved three times in a light trespass, does not amend, him we ought to hold for a heathen and a publican, avoiding him, that he may be brought to confusion. But whether he is esteemed of God also as a heathen and a publican, is not ours to decide, but is in the judgment of God.

18:18–20

18. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

20. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

JEROME. Because He had said, If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen, and a publican, whereupon the brother so contemned might answer, or think within himself, If you despise me, I also will despise you; if you condemn me, you shall be condemned by my sentence. He therefore confers powers upon the Apostles, that they may be assured that when any are condemned after this manner, the sentence of man is ratified by the sentence of God. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose upon the earth shall be loosed in heaven.

ORIGEN. He said not in the heavens (in cœlis), as when He spoke to Peter, but in heaven (in cœlo), for they are not yet attained to the like perfection with Peter.

HILARY. To hold out a great and terrible fear, by which all men should be reached in this present life, He pronounces that the judgment of the Apostles should be ratified, so that whosoever they bound on earth, i. e. left entangled in the noose of sin, and whosoever they loosed, i. e. accorded the pardon of God’s mercy to their salvation, that these should be bound and loosed in heaven.

CHRYSOSTOM. And be it noted, that He said not to the Primate1 of the Church, Bind such a man; but, If ye shall bind him, the bonds shall be indissoluble; leaving the other to his discretion. And see how He has set the incorrigible person under the yoke of a twofold necessity; to wit, the punishment that is here, namely, the casting forth out of the Church, when He said, Let him be to thee as a heathen; and the future punishment, saying, that he shall be bound in heaven; thus by the weight of his penalties lessening his brother’s wrath against him.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Otherwise; When you begin to hold your brother as a publican you bind him on earth, but take heed that you bind him with just cause; for an unjust cause breaks rightful bonds. But when you have corrected him, and agreed with him, you have loosed him upon earth, and when you have loosed him upon earth, he shall be loosed also in heaven. You confer a great boon not on yourself, but on him, as he had done the hurt not to you but to himself.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) But He holds out a ratification not only of sentences of excommunication, but of every petition which is offered by men holding together in the unity of the Church; for He adds, Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree upon earth, whether in admitting a penitent, or casting out a forward person, touching any thing which they shall ask, any thing, that is, that is not against the unity of the Church, it shall be done for them by my Father which is in heaven. By saying, which is in heaven, He points Him out as above all, and therefore able to fulfil all that shall be asked of Him. Or, He is in the heavens, that is, with saints, proof enough that whatever worthy thing they shall ask shall be done unto them, because they have with them Him of whom they ask. For this cause is the sentence of those that agree together ratified, because God dwells in them, For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, because He had said, It shall be done unto them by My Father; therefore, to shew that He is the Giver together with His Father, He adds this, where two or three, &c.

ORIGEN. And He said not, I will be, but I am in the midst of them; because straightway, as soon as they have agreed together, Christ is found among them.

HILARY. For He who is peace and charity, will set His place and habitation in good and peaceable dispositions.

JEROME. Or otherwise; All His foregoing discourse had invited us to union; now to make us embrace peace more anxiously, He holds out a reward, promising to be in the midst of two or three.

CHRYSOSTOM. Yet He said not barely, Where they are gathered together, but added, in my name, as much as to say, If any man look upon Me as the chief motive of his love to his neighbour, I will be with him, though he is virtue be shewn towards other men. How is it then that those who thus agree together do not obtain what they ask for? First, because they ask things not expedient, and because they do not bring on their parts that which they ought to contribute; wherefore He says, If two of you, that is, who shew an evangelic conversation. Thirdly, because they pray seeking vengeance against those who have grieved them. And fourthly, because they seek mercy for sinners who have not repented.

ORIGEN. And this also is the reason why our prayers are not granted, because we do not agree together in all things upon earth, neither in doctrine, nor in conversation. For as in music, unless the voices are in time there is no pleasure to the hearer, so in the Church, unless they are united God is not. pleased therein, nor does He hear their words.

JEROME. (vid. Origen. in loc.) We may also understand this spiritually; where our spirit, soul, and body are in agreement, and have not within them conflicting wills, they shall obtain from My Father every thing they shall ask; for none can doubt that that demand is good, where the body wills the same thing as the spirit.

ORIGEN. Or, In whatever the two testaments are in agreement, for this every prayer is found acceptable to God.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000

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Catechism Excerpts

Homiletic Directory

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.” From the Homiletic Directory

CCC 2055: the Decalogue summed up in one command to love
CCC 1443-1445: reconciliation with the Church
CCC 2842-2845: “as we forgive those who trespass against us”

The Decalogue summed up in one command to love

2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?”8 Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.”9 The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:

The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.10

Reconciliation with the Church

1443 During his public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: he reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them. A remarkable sign of this is the fact that Jesus receives sinners at his table, a gesture that expresses in an astonishing way both God’s forgiveness and the return to the bosom of the People of God.44

1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”45 “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.”46

1445 The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.


“As we forgive those who trespass against us”

2842 This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”139 It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.140 Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.141

2843 Thus the Lord’s words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end,142 become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord’s teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”143 It is there, in fact, “in the depths of the heart,” that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.

2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies,144 transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God’s compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.145

2845 There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness,146 whether one speaks of “sins” as in Luke (11:4), “debts” as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”147 The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relationship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.148

God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.149

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