September 7, 2014 – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Like many of you, I got my driver’s license when I was sixteen years old.  Finally, years of having my mom drive me everywhere or begging for rides were over.  I was free and it felt great!  Four years later, when I could afford it, I bought my first car.  It was a 1985 Chevy Cavalier.  It wasn’t in great shape, but it was mine.  Now, I didn’t even have to ask to borrow mom’s car.  Anytime I wanted, I could leave the house, get in MY car, go anywhere I wanted, and do whatever I wanted.  All of this came crashing down on me, though, when this car inevitably broke down.  Turns out, when the experts recommend you get your oil changed regularly, you should probably listen to them.  Anyway, suddenly all of this freedom was gone.  In a flash, I was back to having to ride to work with my mom.  (Side note: not only did my mom and I work at the same place, but she was my boss, too.)  Having to relive days when I was at the mercy of my mom’s schedule was no fun.  I had to leave when she left.  I couldn’t go home until she was ready to go home.  AND, if my “boss” was upset with me for some reason, you had best believe that the rides to and from work provided a great opportunity for her to continue with the scolding.  I was miserable, but why?  My mom was doing me a favor.  Her help enabled me to stay employed, which allowed me to continue paying my bills.  I should have been grateful, but all I could do at the time was whine about my vanishing independence.  Turns out, I was learning a lesson that sometimes suffering can bring about change and growth. Submitting to someone else’s authority and scrutiny can be very difficult and frustrating.  “This is MY life.”  “Noone else can tell ME what to do and NO ONE had better judge me for decisions I make.”  Many of us, especially we Americans, are taught from a very early age that we are entitled to live the life we want, regardless of consequence.  The life of a faithful Catholic, however, must be different.  We are challenged to humbly submit to God’s will and follow the teachings of the Church.  Submit?  Follow?  HUMBLY?!  Yes.  In fact, it is our responsibility as Christians to help keep our brothers and sisters on the right path, too.  This of course, is not an easy task.   This weekend’s readings seem to make it very clear that we, the faithful, bear a tremendous amount of responsibility in helping our brothers and sisters live a good and holy life.  In the first reading from Ezekiel, the Lord says “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel.  When you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.”  The Lord is putting into our hands the responsibility of serving as his prophetic voice to the Church.  In the Psalm, we the faithful are challenged with the words: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”.  The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us that “…the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”.  In the Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus set’s out a detailed procedure for dealing with the sins of the faithful.  In all of these readings, a few things seem certain:
1.       We are called to listen for (and follow the directions of) the voice of God.
2.       We are responsible for sharing God’s Word with our brothers and sisters.
3.       We are commissioned to confront our brothers and sisters when they fall into sin.
4.       We have been commanded to do 1-3 of this list with love. Submitting to someone else’s authority, especially the Church, can be uncomfortable and jarring.  Holding our brothers and sisters (friends, family, fellow church members) accountable for their actions can be awkward and unsettling.  Doing both of these things, however, is doing the will of God, which ultimately brings peace, joy, and love.

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