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Wednesday – Nineteenth Week – OT2
Readings: Eze 9:1-7, 10:18-22; Mt 18:15-20.
1/ First Reading: RSV Ezekiel 9:1 Then he cried in my ears with a loud voice, saying, “Draw near, you executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand.” 2 And lo, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, every man with his weapon for slaughter in his hand, and with them was a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his side. And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar. 3 Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherubim on which it rested to the threshold of the house; and he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his side. 4 And the LORD said to him, “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity; 6 slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house. 7 Then he said to them, “Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go forth.” So they went forth, and smote in the city. RSV Ezekiel 10:18 Then the glory of the LORD went forth from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight as they went forth, with the wheels beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the house of the LORD; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. 20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces, and each four wings, and underneath their wings the semblance of human hands. 22 And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the very faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar. They went every one straight forward.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
I. THEME: Education and punishment
To kill the criminal is just and easy to do; but to educate that criminal to be a good person is difficult to do. God did that and He wants all of us to do the same. In the educational process, we must help the sinner to recognize his sin by using all possible ways. If the sinner intentionally committed a sin, he must be warned and received the corresponding punishment. Lastly, if the sinner is still stubborn–not to give up his sin, then he shall be destroyed.
Today readings give us two ways of education of God and Christ. In the first reading, God let the prophet Ezekiel see different visions so he could recognize the way God educated the Israelites. To destroy them and the Jerusalem Temple are only the last way after He used all other ways. However, if any Israelite recognizes his sins and weeps over it, He shall not destroy him. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples how to do the fraternal correction: At first, it must be strictly between the two, the violator and the violated; if that doesn’t work, they should invite more witnesses; if that also doesn’t work, then they should present their problem before their community. The excommunication can only be used when the sinner is stubborn in his sin.
1/ Reading I: The punishments which God used for the Israelites.
1.1/ The Lord destroyed completely Jerusalem: Ezekiel was the prophet during the exile. His mission is to help the Israelites to recognize their sins and to return to the Lord. His way is to display a god who is just and merciful in his punishments. Ezekiel listed all the sins they committed against God. The Lord warned them countless times through many prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah) and foretold them all punishments which are going to happen before He actually does that. When God must punish, He is also just—only sinners are punished; whoever recognizes his sins and repents, God shall let him return and rebuild the nation and the Temple.
God’s patience has a limit because they so insulted His teaching. The vision which Ezekiel described in today passage, foretold what shall happen for the Jerusalem Temple and its inhabitants. God shall not punish all the inhabitants because there are still some people who sincerely worship Him and sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it, only the sinners. To differentiate the righteous from the sinners, God’s angel shall go through the city and mark a sign on the righteous’ foreheads before other angels who have the duty to destroy shall follow and kill.
1.2/ God left the Jerusalem Temple: From King Solomon’s time, the Israelites believe the Jerusalem Temple is the place where God presents with the Israelites, His dwelling place. Many of them thought God shall never destroy or let their enemy destroy His house, although God told them through the prophets: The Temple isn’t enough for their safety.
Ezekiel’s vision in today passage revealed to them one important point: God is no longer present in the Temple. Before destroying the Temple, the Lord is carried away from it. The Cherubim are those who carried the Lord away. The most severe punishment for the Israelites is the Lord is no longer with them.
2/ Gospel: The unity in a community
2.1/ The fraternal correction: Correcting others is a very delicate issue and must be done for the benefits of the community and the individual violator. In order for the correction to bear fruits, Jesus teaches us to carefully follow this process:
(1) First, between only the two related persons: Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you; go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Two things Jesus wants us to pay attention in this sentence. First, correction must be done between the two related persons, the violator and the violated. Most of the time, we corrected the violator through or under the presence of others. Doing at such shall have no result or the unwanted result, because no one wants to be corrected before others, especially before their intimates or relatives. Secondly, the purpose of correction isn’t about to satisfy our anger, but to gain a brother or a sister.
(2) Next, bringing two or three witnesses: Jesus continues, “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” This is a wise thing to do because it helps both members to avoid their subjective views. Two or three witnesses are enough to conclude something is true. Most of the worldly courts use two or three witnesses to judge their people.
(3) Lastly, before the whole community: Jesus continues, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” The “ekklesia” in Greek can be any gathering of people, so it can be a family, a community or the Church. This is the last step to solve a problem to safeguard the common good and to avoid setting a “bad example” for a community. A Gentile and a tax collector are those who don’t know or disregard God’s law. However, we must be ready to forgive them if they repent.
2.2/ God presents in the midst of a community: We don’t deny God’s presence in an individual but His presence in a community must take precedence and have the priority. Jesus gives two examples to illustrate God is always presence in a community.
(1) The right to bind and to loose one’s sin: Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” First of all, this right is used for the truth, not for the falsity because God is the truth. Secondly, Jesus wants to remind sinners that though they don’t see yet the result in this world, it isn’t meant that they can avoid it in the next life. Lastly, the Church uses this right for the sacrament of Reconciliation to forgive sins so sinners could begin a new life.
(2) Unity in prayers: Jesus said, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” This promise doesn’t mean all things which people ask shall be guaranteed by God. In order to be heard, people must avoid selfish requests or those which cause damages for others; but those please God and bring benefits for others. Next, when God hears their prayer, it isn’t meant the petitioners shall receive exactly what they desire. Only God knows what is good and He shall give what is good for their future. Lastly, Jesus wants to emphasize God’s presence even in a group of two or three people, not only in a big gathering.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– To correct others is a delicate thing to do, especially to correct those who are our peers or older than us. Therefore, many people want to have peace and not to waste their time to correct others; they are afraid to be hated or to endure the unwanted results. But today God’s words clearly say to us that the fraternal correction is our duty to bring others to the right way, not an option.
– Many times we corrected others, not to bring them back, but to satisfy our anger or to find fault in them. Punishment is only the last step we should use for the sinner after we went through these three steps; and the punishment’s purpose is to purify, not to destroy others.
– These three steps which God teaches us in today Gospel safeguard justice and avoid all psychological fears.