23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 6th September
One of the strengths of our Christian faith is that when we are gathered even in the smallest numbers Christ is present in our midst. Yet it is the purpose of our gathering which is to love God and love our neighbour. As Paul notes in the letter to the Romans that love is the answer to each one of the commandments as it cannot hurt our neighbour. The question then becomes how does our love become manifest.
In the Gospel of Matthew, this talks about how we seek to reach out to our brother or sister in loving concern not only for their wellbeing but for the good of their relationship with God. Often, we can sense that God is solely directed by our own agenda and what we consider to be important. Yet we often need to meet with others to listen to God’s voice, to seek what will bring freedom and not cause harm.
Similarly, in the prophet Ezekiel, the listening to the word of God is not just for our good but for the good of the other. In the words of the psalmist, our prayer becomes, “O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden, not your hearts.” So, this is not just correcting a person but desiring them to encounter God who directs their actions. Once again, we hear echoes of Paul where it is a loving concern for another that changes hearts. This should always be at the heart of our prayer that we “avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love.” When we have an agape unconditional loving which is not solely for our own advantage or promotion of our interests God abides with us and directs our actions.
Fr. John Armstrong