Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
If you ever thought that living as a Christian was always going to be easy, today’s readings will convince you that this is not so. In the first reading from Ezekiel, the prophet was sent to convince the people in Jerusalem to return to God and God’s ways; he bore rejection as a result of fulfilling his mission. In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his followers to work toward reconciliation when we have been wronged, rather than remaining caught in anger or disappointment. Saint Paul captures what lies behind these instructions—love. “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” When we are tempted to walk away from a friend or co-worker with whom we disagree, or even more so when we worry that the person has turned away from the Lord, we are instead called to reach out in love.
LOVE AS CHRIST CALLS
The truth is, love is sometimes wonderfully charged with light and life, but it also often requires us to confront wrongdoing and injustice, to be patient and forgiving, and to work for peace and reconciliation. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to reflect the love of God which desires the best for every person and for all of humanity. Jesus was so committed to this mission of God’s love that he gave himself as an offering of pure sacrifice. This is not easy love. It is compelling love, the sort of love that transforms and draws us toward the light and life that in our hearts we know we seek, and which we are called to share.
IF TODAY YOU HEAR HIS VOICE
Where does this leave us when we experience conflict with others? As in all times and seasons, the best place to begin is in prayer. Listen for the voice of God in personal prayer, at Mass, in sacred scripture and other devotional reading, with trusted faithful and faith-filled friends. Listen with the compassion of the Lord in mind. And when you hear God’s voice, pay attention! This sounds self-evident, yet how many of us hear God’s voice but ask that we not be called to the challenge and discomfort of the situation, desiring instead to hope that things will simply get better? Perhaps they will, but perhaps you are called to bring the light and life of Christ to the situation, in love, for love, and through love, just as Jesus did. “If today you hear [God’s] voice, harden not your hearts,” says today’s psalm. We often know the depth of love to which we are called. Today’s readings invite us to listen and to act, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to desire the best for every person as God desires, and to be assured that God is in our midst.