OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

No man is an island...” How true this is for those who follow Christ: each of us has responsibilities towards each other, based on our ‘debt of mutual love’. When we see wickedness and wrongdoing, then because of our privileged position of following the Lord Jesus, we have a duty to speak out. This will not always be easy - remember the prophet Jeremiah last week - but this was the mission of the Lord Jesus himself, and as his followers, it is our mission too. As with everything, love is ‘the answer to every one of the commandments.’

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-9.
 
Today another great prophet outlines for us the prophet’s mission: to speak the words of the Lord, whether heeded or not. This is the burden and reward of prophecy. The reading is very clear, and should not be difficult to proclaim. The first line of God’s message to Ezekiel is easy to pass over, but is quite significant: ‘I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel’. Think about a sentry’s tasks: to warn of the approach of danger or threat to the city. Ezekiel’s word from God says that a prophet is to act as a guard over the lives of God’s people. The reader is given two contrasting ideas - the prophet failing in his task, and the prophet fulfilling his task; in your reading, allow the two ideas to be clearly contrasted, pausing between them.
 
Second Reading: Romans 13:8-10.
 
It is wonderful how in the complex prose of Saint Paul’s letters, we occasionally get a very simple, single idea comes through strongly: such a passage appears today. All Paul is talking about is Love: the word appears four times in the reading, each one of them significant and to be stressed. The first sentence is a delightful expression: pause after ‘avoid getting into debt...’, so that this part can be taken at face value, before concluding with the punch-line: ‘...except the debt of mutual love.’ The second sentence, when you think about it, is quite momentous: Paul is saying that all our obligations, everything God expects of us, is fulfilled if we simply love our fellow men and women - how simple and yet how difficult this is ! Think for a while about this simple sentence, and then allow your thoughts to come through in your reading. The list of commandments is just that - a list (as revealed by the ‘throwaway’ ‘...and so on..’). The ‘single command’ is the most important line in the reading - thump it out: ‘You  must love your neighbour as yourself’. Paul is so convinced of the importance of this concept that these words are deliberately simple and emphatic - he’s very much trying to persuade his listeners. You, as his mouthpiece, must do the same today.

From the Catechism

CCC 2055
The Decalogue summed up in one command to love

CCC 1443-1445
Reconciliation with the Church

CCC 2842-2845
“as we forgive those who trespass against us”

CCC 2842 - 2845
This "as" is not unique in Jesus' teaching: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"; "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful"; "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves "forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave" us.
Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.
Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.
There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness, whether one speaks of "sins" as in Luke (11:4), "debts" as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relationship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.
God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Gospel Wordsearch