23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Over the last few weeks the Gospel has taught us about faith – our relationship with God. This week the Gospel teaches us about holy friendship – how we live with one another.
Holy Friendship is founded in love.
A holy friendship is one that is founded in God. It is a friendship that is centered first in a love for God, and then love for one another. In a holy friendship we are able to walk together through good times and bad. When people witness our friendship – they see the presence of Christ in our love.
In the first reading today God tells us that we are “the watchmen of the house of Israel”. Part of being a good friend is that we watch out for each other. When I was in the Navy from time to time I had to “Stand Watch”.
When I was standing watch, it was my job to be alert for anything that might endanger the lives of all of my shipmates. If there was a fire, I had to sound the alarm. If the ship ran aground on a reef, I had to wake the crew to save the ship. I was usually ordered to stand watch at night. When I was standing watch I had a flashlight to help me see into the dark places. This allowed me to see if there was a leaky pipe that was causing a flood, or a smoldering rag that was starting a fire. Without my flashlight I was not a good watchman.
Adoration – A Spiritual Flashlight
Being alert in our spiritual life means that we have the light of Christ in our hearts. He is the flashlight that helps us to see into the dark areas. One way we can allow Christ to illuminate our lives is to spend time with Him in Adoration. On the first weekend of each month a group of families from our parish meet for an all-night vigil starting Saturday evening. This group is called Adoracion Nocturnal. They spend the night in prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. When we pray in Christ’s presence He helps us to become aware of both the good and the bad in our lives. Allowing Christ to shine the light of his love on the sinful areas of our lives helps us to be alert to the danger that our soul is in.
The second part of standing watch is to be aware. Being aware means that we know what will happen if we let something continue. If we ignore that smoldering rag it will start a fire. If we ignore that leaky pipe it will burst and start a flood. Spiritual awareness is an understanding of the consequences of temptation and sin.
Lead us not into temptation
One way that we can become spiritually aware is to start our day by praying the “Our Father”. This prayer helps us to become aware because we ask God to “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. When we start our day with the Lord’s Prayer, we are bringing into our awareness of the fact that today the devil will try to lead me down an evil path. When we ask God to help us avoid evil, then we become open to God’s help when he sends someone point out our sin.
Sin is like cancer to the soul
Recently a good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer; her whole life changed. Everything that she was doing was put on hold so she can fight this disease. The reason she did this is because she understands that if she does not fight the cancer then it will kill her.
In the same way, Sin is like cancer to our soul. If we recognize that our sin is a cancer then we will radically re-orient our lives to get rid of the sin. If, we think that our sin is only a little cold, then we will ignore it and let it eat away at our soul.
Judge not lest ye be judged… (remember the whole verse)
In the Gospel today, Jesus teaches us how to act if someone has sinned against us. Jesus tells us to talk with those who hurt us. Living out this Gospel is hard because we don’t like being judged. Some times when we confront a friend with their sin they accuse us of judging them and will quote the scripture “judge not lest ye be judged”. As Christians we should never be afraid of scripture, but we should always read the whole verse, in this case Matthew, chapter 7, verse 2, says “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” Jesus does not tell us to stop judging, rather that we should judge as He judges. Jesus judges us out of a desire to heal our souls by killing the cancer of sin with his love and forgiveness.
I would be mad at a doctor for not talking about my cancer
If I don’t tell my friend about the way that their sin is killing our friendship then I am like a Doctor who knows that his patient has cancer but he won’t speak about it for fear of hurting their feelings. Who wants that kind of Doctor? If I had cancer that was eating up my lungs, and crushing my heart, and my doctor would not talk to me about it then I would find a new Doctor who could really help me.
In the same way brothers and sisters God is calling us to talk about the cancer that we see in each other’s lives. When we see that there is sin, we need to confront it and to seek healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. We do this first by talking privately about how the sin is hurting us. This requires humility because we often don’t want to admit that we have been hurt. If we are heard then we have great joy because our friendship has become more holy.
How to tell your friend is not your friend
The next part of the Gospel seems harsh but it really isn’t, it is simply recognition of human freedom. If your friend hurt you, and you told them about it and they would not listen to you, or to your mutual friends, or even to the Church, then they really aren’t your friends. This is Jesus’ way of telling us that it is time to find another doctor.
Two ways of being a good friend.
The Gospel today teaches us about how to be a good friend in two different ways.
Be open to our friends holding us accountable to a holy life.
- If our friends need to talk to us about Cancer (sin) then listen to them.
- If our sin (or cancer) is serious, then go to confession (the Doctor).
- Otherwise, our sins will destroy our souls.
Likewise we can help our help friends grow in holiness
- If they sin against us, then we need to tell them.
- If they don’t listen to us, then we need to try to help them to see it.
- If they won’t listen to us, our friends or even the Church, then they are not our friends.
Why should we model our friendships in this way?
If we can have holy friendships like these, then whenever we are together as friends, everyone will see that Christ is truly present in our midst.