Jesus Says: Listen to the Church
User’s Guide to Sunday, Sept. 10
Sunday, Sept. 10, is the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Mass Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalms 95:1-2, 6-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20
We are used to hearing today’s Gospel from the perspective of someone who has to correct others.
But what if we need correction?
If your brother wrongs you, Jesus says, first bring it up “between you and him alone.” Next, add witnesses. Only then appeal to an authority — the Church. “If he refuses to listen even to the Church,” Jesus says, “then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
The advice Jesus gives is one of the spiritual works of mercy: Admonish the sinner.
The urgency of the advice is clear in the first reading. “If you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,” says the Lord to Ezekiel, “the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.”
But then Jesus goes on to spell out the authority of the Church, the final stop in the chain: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
That is a great deal of authority, and a good reason to listen to the Church. Today, we have a crisis of people refusing to listen to the Church — often because of politics.
Take for example the “sins that cry to heaven” listed in the Catechism: “the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner” (1867).
That is quite a list. The first two “sins that cry to heaven” include sins that one brand of politics downplays. First is abortion, which St. John Paul II compared to “the blood of Abel.” Second is the “sin of the Sodomites,” which the New Testament defines this way: “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion” (Jude 1:7).
The second two sins are those that another brand of politics downplays: First, the plight of refugees, immigrants and those who need social assistance and, second, “injustice to the wage earner.” The Catechism cites the New Testament to explain what kind of “wage earner” it means: “Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (James 5:4).
We should never refuse to listen to the Church, even when it contradicts political correctness or a political party. The second reading explains why. “The commandments,” says St. Paul, “are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Ultimately, we don’t listen to the Church because of its authority; we listen because of our love.
Tom Hoopes is writer
in residence at
Benedictine College and
author of The Fatima