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September 8th, 2002
Catholic Homilies
September 8th, 2002

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23d Sunday in Ordinary Time Mt 18/15-20

Background:

The very words in today's Gospel illustrate the point made in last week's background paragraph. The instruction was meant for the early Church which was split by many internal conflicts. There was not, as one recent author said, a single Church but many churches which were part of a movement. Within congregations and among congregations there was constant controversy (so nothing much has changed). The author is trying to use the instructions of Jesus about love as a kind of rule of thumb for settling controversies and conflicts. It is strange, is it not, that Jesus’ message of love was forgotten so soon after his own time.

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Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a divorced woman and her two pre-teen children moved into a community. This woman was a celebrity so everyone knew about her situation. They also knew that she was "seeing" a well known political figure in the City. She and her children showed up at Mass on their first Sunday in the parish and, to everyone’s surprise, she received communion. The next day several members of the parish complained to the pastor. They chastised him for allowing a "public sinner" to partake of the Eucharist. How could they instruct their children in correct behavior when he allowed a sinner to partake of the Eucharist? At first the pastor, who knew that the woman’s marriage had been annulled and so she was free to be a full member of the community, was tempted to chastise those who were complaining. Instead, recognizing a teaching moment, he reminded the complainers that it was never a good idea to jump to conclusions and use faith as a reason to judge others. Without going into details about the woman’s situation, he told them, her presence in their community was a wonderful opportunity for teaching their children that love and acceptance was the Christian way.

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Without going into details about the woman’s situation, he told them, her presence in their community was a wonderful opportunity for teaching their children that love and acceptance was the Christian way

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