Wednesday - Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
Almighty and ever-living God,
your Spirit made us your children,
confident to call you Father.
Increase your Spirit within us
and bring us to our promised inheritance.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 18,15-20
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: whatever the misdemeanour, the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain the 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 gentile or a tax collector. 'In truth I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 'In truth I tell you 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 am there among them.'
• In the Gospel of today and of tomorrow we read and meditate on the second half of the Discourse of the Community. Today’s Gospel speaks about fraternal correction (Mt 18, 15-18) and of prayer in common (Mt 18, 19-20). The Gospel of tomorrow speaks about pardon (Mt 18, 21-22) and presents the parable of pardon without limitations (Mt 18, 23-35). The key word in this second part is “to forgive”. The accent is on reconciliation. In order that there may be reconciliation which will allow the little ones to return, it is important to know how to dialogue and to forgive, because the foundation of fraternity is the gratuitous love of God. It is only in this way that the community will be a sign of the Kingdom. It is not easy to forgive. There is a certain grief which continues to strike the heart as with a hammer. There are persons who say: “I forgive, but I do not forget!” There is: resentment, tensions, clashes, diverse opinions, and offences, provocations which render pardon and reconciliation difficult.
• The organization of the words of Jesus in the five Great Discourses of the Gospel of Matthew indicates that at the end of the first century, the communities had very concrete forms of catechesis. The Discourse of the Community (Mt 18, 1-35), for example gives updated instructions of how to proceed in case of any conflict among the members of the community and how to find criteria to solve the conflicts. Matthew gathers together those phrases of Jesus which can help the communities of the end of the first century to overcome the two more acute problems which they had to face at that moment, that is, the exodus of the little ones because of the scandal given by some and the need to dialogue in order to overcome the rigor of others in accepting the little ones, the poor, in the community.
• Matthew 18, 15-18: Fraternal correction and the power to forgive. These verses give simple norms of how to proceed in case of conflicts in the community. If a brother or a sister should sin, if they had behaviour not in accordance to the life of the community, they should not be denounced immediately. First, it is necessary to try to speak with them alone. Then it is necessary to try to know the reasons of the other. If no results are obtained, then it is necessary to take two or three persons of the community to see if it is possible to obtain some result. Only in extreme cases, it is necessary to expose the problem to the whole community. And if the person refuses to listen to the community, then they should be considered by you as “a sinner or a pagan”, that is, as someone who is not part of the community. Therefore, it is not you who excludes, but it is the person himself/herself who excludes himself/herself. The community gathered together only verifies or ratifies the exclusion. The grace to be able to forgive and to reconcile in the name of God was given to Peter (Mt 16, 19), to the Apostles ( Jn 20, 23) and, here in the Discourse of the Community, to the community itself (Mt 18, 18). This reveals the importance of the decisions which the community assumes in regard to its members.
• Matthew 18, 19: Prayer in common. The exclusion does not mean that the person is abandoned to his/her own fate. No! The person may be separated from the community, but will never be separated from God. In the case in which the conversation in the community does not produce any result, and the person does not want to be integrated in the life of the community, there still remains the last possibility to remain together with the Father to obtain reconciliation, and Jesus guarantees that the Father will listen: “If two of you 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 am there among them”.
• Matthew 18, 20: The presence of Jesus in the community. The reason of the certainty of being heard by the Father is the promise of Jesus: “Because where there are two or three who meet in my name, I am there among them!” Jesus is the centre, the axis, of the community, and, as such, together with the Community, it will always be praying with us to the Father, in order that he may grant the gift of the return of the brother or the sister who have excluded themselves.
4) Personal questions
• Why is it so difficult to forgive? In our community, is there some space for reconciliation? In which way?
• Jesus says: "For wherever there are two or three who meet in my name, I am also there among them”. What does this mean for us today?
5) Concluding Prayer
Praise, servants of Yahweh,
praise the name of Yahweh.
Blessed be the name of Yahweh,
henceforth and for ever. (Ps 113,1-2)