The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.09.10
Always be wary of the scriptures that cast Jesus in the role of a litigator, a legislator, authoring the law code.
These are the machinations of later generation, writing into the sacred text a justification for their usurped authority.
They put words into the mouth of Jesus and making both him and themselves into liars.
The reflection Jesus gave on the law was this:
Love the God with all your strength, all your heart, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
That is the whole of the law.
The ministry of Jesus was a ministry characterized by mercy. Do not forgive seven times, but seventy-seven times, and if you go to prayer while there is a conflict between you and your sister or brother, go first to your sister or brother, resolve the conflict, and do not return to prayer until you do.
Every community has a duty to protect itself from dangerous people and predators. Jesus was not suggesting that we keep our doors open to violent, deranged, and dangerous people…our hearts yes, but not our doors.
However, if the recalcitrant member of the community is just stubborn, or argumentative, or someone with a different understanding of the faith and the way, and they will not conform to the norms of the community…by all means treat them as Jesus would have treated a pagan, or a tax collector, invite them dinner, sit down and eat with them, do not refuse them anything.
Do not believe the Church when it claims to have the authority to free people, or put them in chains, either here or in the world to come. The Church does not have that authority, the disciples did not have that authority. The claim to possess that authority is derived from fear, the fear of losing control over the communities they presided over.
What we all possess is the power to forgive, to forgive those who have done us harm, so that harm they have done ceases to have power over us. And we have the power to forgive ourselves…more importantly to accept the forgiveness of those we have harmed, so that our guilt does not continue to be a stain on us, and a determinant of our path in life.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.
‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.
‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time