Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
The prophet Ezekiel is appointed watchman for the house of Israel. As God’s prophet, he doesn’t teach his own doctrine, but rather communicates God’s word to the people. He has the duty to correct sinners. If Ezekiel is negligent and is not faithful to his mission, then he will be held accountable for the sins of the people. However, if he is faithful, then he is not responsible for the sin of those who chose to remain in their sin.
God does not delight in the death of the sinner, but rather in the sinner turning from sinful ways and entering into life (Ezekiel 33:11). Jesus will teach that heaven rejoices over the sinner who repents (Luke 15:7).
We turn from sin by listening to the Word of God and conforming our lives to this living Word. God tells us in the Psalm, harden not your hearts. If we have child-like hearts, we readily accept and welcome God’s love and this transforms our hearts. The hardened heart is stubborn, and refuses to correct bad habits.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives practical guidelines on how to deal with sin in the Christian community. The first step is frank and honest dialogue. When someone has offended us or we have offended someone, we can begin the process of reconciliation by simply speaking about the offense or fault and asking for forgiveness. Sometimes, though, we need the testimony of others or the help of a priest to achieve reconciliation.
In the Gospel, Jesus gives the Apostles, and not just Peter, the power to bind and loose. This power “connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom” (CCC, 553).
The ministry of reconciliation was entrusted by Christ to his apostles; bishops and priests, the bishop’s collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Forgiveness of sins brings reconciliation with God but also with the Church (CCC, 1461-1462). “When he celebrates the sacrament of Penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and of the just and impartial judge whose judgment is both just and merciful. The priest is the sign and instrument of God’s merciful love for the sinner” (CCC, 1465).
United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. The Church on earth is holy, but this holiness is still imperfect. In the members of the Church, perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired. We recognize that we are sinners in need of purification (CCC, 823-829). The way to holiness and eternal life is found in keeping the commandments. Saint Paul reminds us, in his Letter to the Romans, that many of the commandments which prohibit things like adultery, killing, stealing, coveting, are summed up positively in the second greatest commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:16-19). Love is truly the fulfillment of the Law. God loved us first, and so our keeping of the commandments is a loving response to God’s love and initiative.
When we gather together in prayer, Jesus is present in our midst. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we unite our prayer to Jesus’ intercession before his Father. By uniting our will in prayer to that of Jesus, we fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation. We ask especially that he grant us the grace of conversion, that he strengthen the bonds of unity and charity in his Church, and that he grant prudence and wisdom to the ordained ministers of the Church.
Readers may contact Fr Jason Mitchell at email@example.com.