Saturday, September 05, 2020

Heart Care

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 94(95):1-2,6-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

Picture: cc Injurymap

My dear friends, have you ever considered how amazing the human heart is? As you know, the heart is responsible for circulating life-giving blood around the body. And, in order to do this, a healthy heart has to be both flexible and tough. It has to be flexible enough to receive blood, but also tough enough to keep pumping blood all over the body, all the time.

It’s helpful to keep this in mind, as we meditate on our readings today. For just as the human body requires a constant flow of blood to survive, so too does the Church, the Body of Christ, live by the circulation of love. As the second reading tells us, love… is the answer to every one of the commandments. Love is what the Body of Christ receives from God, circulates among all its members, and then shares with the rest of the world. Isn’t this what we believe happens when we gather for the Eucharist? Here, at the Table of Word and Sacrament, we receive God’s life-giving love, share it among ourselves, and then go forth to convey it to others.

But blood, as you know, doesn’t just bring life to the body in the form of oxygen. Blood also removes death in the form of carbon dioxide. Similarly, our readings speak of the need for us to love one another, not just by encouraging those who do right, but also by correcting those of who do wrong. In the first reading, God reminds the prophet of his duty to warn the wicked, to call the wrongdoer to repentance. And, in the gospel, Jesus suggests steps that a community can take to correct its own wayward members.

To do this is, of course, not easy at all. It is tough. It’s tough enough to challenge the misdeeds even of members of our own family, let alone those of others. Isn’t this why, around the world, our Church has suffered, not just from the terrible effects of the abuse of children, but also from our own failure to confront this evil, our misguided attempts to cover it up?

Even so, love requires more than toughness alone. For example, although many have expressed praise and support for all that Pope Francis has been doing and teaching, there are also a good number of Catholics, including prominent Church leaders, who oppose and seek to undermine him. While such acts may be signs of toughness, we may perhaps wonder to what extent they are true expressions of love.

At the end of the gospel reading, Jesus says, where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them. The important words here are in my name. They suggest that, before we venture to correct others, we need to develop that flexibility that enables us to question whether we are truly acting in conformity with the Lord’s life and teachings. What we say and do should actually reflect the will of God, and not just the prejudice of those who are resistant to life-giving change, people who stubbornly refuse to repent.

Sisters and brothers, if it is true that the Body of Christ functions much like a human heart, then what must we do to keep cultivating both the flexibility and toughness that are needed to keep God’s love circulating in our world today? 

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