To win them back
As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today's first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Galatians 6:16).
He also puts in place procedures for dealing with sin and breaches of the faith, building on rules of discipline prescribed by Moses for Israel (see Leviticus 19:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:13). The heads of the new Israel, however, receive extraordinary powers -- similar to those given to Peter (see Matthew 16:19). They have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins and to reconcile sinners in His name (see John 20:21-23).
But the powers He gives the Apostles, and their successors depend on their communion with Him. As Ezekiel is only to teach what he hears God saying, so the disciples are to gather in His name and to pray and seek the will of our heavenly Father.
But today's readings are more than a lesson in Church order. They also suggest how we're to deal with those who trespass against us, a theme that we'll hear in next week's readings as well.
Notice that both the Gospel and the First Reading presume that believers have a duty to correct sinners in our midst. Ezekiel is even told that he will be held accountable for their souls if he fails to speak out and try to correct them.
This is the love that Paul in today's Epistle says we owe to our neighbors. To love our neighbors as ourselves is to be vitally concerned for their salvation. We must make every effort, as Jesus says, to win our brothers and sisters back, to turn them from the false paths.
We should never correct out of anger or a desire to punish. Instead, our message must be that of today's Psalm -- urging the sinner to hear God's voice, not to harden their hearts, and to remember that He is the one who made us, the rock of our salvation.
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
- Scott Hahn is the founder and president of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He is also the bestselling author of numerous books including The Lamb's Supper, Reasons to Believe, and Rome Sweet Home (co-authored with his wife, Kimberly). Some of his newest books are The Creed, Joy to the World and Evangelizing Catholics.