The publisher of much of the music we sing, Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), also has some online resources available. These include some useful commentaries on the Scripture Readings. This week, I will be sharing excerpts from some of those materials with you in this letter.
Our first reading from the book of Ezekiel bothers me when I think about the part that tells us if we do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from their way, they shall die for their guilt, but we will be held responsible for their death. In his commentary on this reading, Deacon Owen Cummings attributes this discomfort to our knowledge of our own frailties and imperfections.
Of course, there are different ways of inviting conversion, for that is surely what is meant by "warning the wicked." There may indeed be some occasions when personal confrontation of wickedness is called for, but it seems to me that the norm ought to be solid but compassionate moral performances on the part of … all who are Church.1
In her commentary on today’s Gospel (Matthew 18:1520) Virginia Smith writes:
The two parts of today’s reading seem at first glance to be diametric opposites, but upon closer inspection one follows logically upon the other. The reading opens with instructions on how to handle serious disputes among members of the church. By and large, ‘church’ in this context indicates the local community. Only in the most significant cases would the situation be referred further. If all else fails, the person offended is allowed to shun the offender (“… treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector,”), a terrible fate.
However, in the very next verse, provisions for forgiveness are laid out so broadly that the choice to forgive is not only binding between the parties involved here on earth, but in heaven as well. In Jesus preaching, here and elsewhere, the only thing that trumps forgiveness is love. That actually is an oxymoron because forgiveness is a major component of Christian love.
What does all this say to us now? We don’t need to be patsies and allow people to run over us roughshod, but we may not carry grudges nor seek vengeance for wrongs done to us even if our complaint is legitimate. The most Christian way to respond is through forgiveness, a decision we make, not an emotion we feel.2
I hope these reflections on the readings will be useful to you, and I look forward to building the kingdom along with you as things “gear up” this Fall.
Director of Liturgy and Music
1 Copyright © 2003-2008, OCP. All rights reserved. Used with permission.