23 Ordinary Time – A - 2011
Homily from Father Cusick
Meeting Christ in the Liturgy
Ezekiel 33, 7-9; Psalm 95; Romans 13, 8-10; Matthew 18, 15-20
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The first reading today from Ezekiel speaks about the responsibility that we have to each other. The Lord says that we are set as watchmen for his people. It is wrong for someone to ignore another person who is behaving improperly. There is an obligation to try to convince the other person to choose right over wrong. Of course, this is difficult because we can jeopardize our lives if we appoint ourselves as guardians of everyone else’s actions. For example, if you are in Wal-Mart and come upon a young Mom with eighteen month old twins in a stroller and a four year old who doesn’t want to hold on to her hand, and you hear her yelling at her four year old, your life might be in jeopardy if you tell her that she should speak nicely to her children. At the very least, you probably would get hit in the face with a diaper bag. Actually, Ezekiel’s is not speaking about people in general. He is speaking about being a watchman for the community of Israel. His main point refers not as much to people we don’t know as to those we do know. This is even more difficult. If we learn that our friend or a member of our family is doing something immoral, and we don’t say anything, we are condoning their action. It takes a lot of courage to say to someone, “Look, I can’t agree with what you are doing, and I hope you reconsider your actions,” but Christianity does take courage.
The Gospel reading today is dealing with someone who has offended you. It gives a set procedure: talk to the person about it. If this doesn’t work, bring two or three others to have a discussion about it. If this is not successful, then go before the community and discuss the matter. If the community agrees with you, and the person still continues to offend you, then he or she is no longer part of the community.
This sounds harsh, but is it not much better than our present system. Ideally, if we followed what the gospel suggests we would be much better and less stressed in our lives than with our "political correctness" AGENDA.
We do indeed "meet Christ in the liturgy". Learning this truth and living by it, every Catholic can learn to love the liturgy more and to participate in it more deeply, responding to the infinite graces that are present in each Mass. Many, unfortunately, are unaware that an encounter with Christ happens each time the liturgy is offered. Many allow themselves to become bored, are put off by the obligation to attend Mass, and many fall away. Yes, we must attend Mass each week in order to fulfill the commandment to keep the Lord's Day holy, but it is more perfect to do so out of love of God and the desire to praise Him. He is ever worthy of all praise and glory because of He is God. It is our great calling as creatures to find fulfillment and happiness in coming to know and love our Creator, and to worship Him.
The teaching of the Church about the presence of Christ in the Mass, or liturgy, comes from Christ's own teaching. Christ is present in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, really, truly and substantially. The Eucharist is the great sign of the Church and the guarantee of Lord's abiding presence in the Church and in the sacraments.
Christ is also present through the authority of the Church to teach in matters of faith and morals in his name and, as it were, with his own voice. In today's Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter eighteen, verses fifteen to twenty, we hear again that the Church has been given Christ's power to bind or loose, to forgive or not forgive sins. All of the Church's faithful enjoy Christ's presence, through the Holy Spirit, while assembled to praise and worship him and to pray in His name. The Catechism helps us in our understanding. Christ, glorified at the right of the Father in heaven, is now present among us in a number of ways, including in the earthly liturgy, or the Mass. "Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, 'the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,' but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised 'where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.' " (Mt. 18: 20) (CCC 1088)
The readings also tell us that we are members of a faith community and as such we are accountable to each other. Quite often, we miss this. We consider ourselves accountable only directly to God, and then convince ourselves that God understands the stress we have and will close an eye to our sins. We may convince ourselves, but we are assuming that God agrees with us. What we are overlooking is that God is present in the community. The Church is the Body of Christ. When we offend others, when we sin, we are sinning against the Body of Christ. If we hurt another person, we are offending Christ within that other person as well as offending the entire Christian community. If we claim we are Christian, we have a responsibility to all other Christians to behave in a Christian way. We are accountable to each other, and to all others in the Church.
Many of you have told me that you really felt your responsibility to others to act in a Christian way when you got married. Your wife, your husband, had a right to your respect, charity, patience and kindness. You have told me that you avoid the immorality of the world because you are accountable to your spouse. You who are married take care of yourselves physically, mentally and spiritually because you belong to each other. Others of you have told me that you really felt the depth of your responsibility to others when you had children.