Homily 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time Year A - Treat them as a Tax Collector

Homily (sermon)
Treat them as a Tax Collector

The Readings for the Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:
Ezekiel 33:7-9, Psalm 94:1-2,6-9, Romans 13:8-10, Matthew 18:15-20

[All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]

Our Gospel today is a dangerous reading. It’s one I think we can easily misunderstand and one we need to take in context of the whole Gospel message.

On the surface it sounds like we are being told we have four actions to take when wronged by your brother. First, try and sort it out person to person, then if that fails to bring some friends to help sort it out, next bring it to the community and finally, if that doesn’t work, shun them, as they are beyond saving. Does that sound like Christs teaching to you? Well it doesn’t sound like Christs teaching to me! And it’s in total contradiction to Paul’s teaching to the Romans from our second reading.

Let me read you that again just in case you were drifting off during the readings, don’t worry it happens to all of us:
Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.
Paul’s message is nothing new to us, we have heard Christ say the same thing in the gospels so we need to look at today gospel reading with Love.

So if we feel wronged we need to go see our friend with Love in our hearts. In modern terms I guess that mean there should be tea and cake as well as conversation and you should be doing the buying or baking.

If that doesn’t work it may be because it is difficult to hear of a wrong doing from the person who has been wronged, and that is assuming you are correct in thinking you have been wronged. Get some friends, people again who have heard Pauls message and will approach this next meeting with Love in their hearts, Love for you both. Let them lead the conversation it's not about you it’s about what happened and it’s about staying friends, staying brothers.

If that doesn’t work then the church, the Christian community must respond with Love. It must reach out to you and them and endeavour to make things right. Not with rules and regulations, not with courts and committees but again with Love, the one thing that can not hurt your friend.

Finally, if all this fails, you should treat them as a pagan or tax collector. Surely that can’t mean give up on them. Turn our backs on them. So let me ask you a few questions.
How did Jesus treat tax collectors?
Who is the patron saint of Tax collectors?
And what was the profession of Matthew our Gospel writer of today?

Jesus spent a lot of time with Tax collectors, pagans, sinners. He never turned his back on them, he came for them. In fact let’s stop using the word them. He came for us all, you and me are sinners as much as any tax collector. If we are to treat our friend as a tax collector that means inviting them into our home, sharing a meal with them, talking to them, forgiving them.

Matthew, our Gospel writer, is the patron saint of Tax collectors. Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum when he first met Jesus. Matthew more than anyone, except maybe Zacchaeus, knew how Jesus loved him and how Jesus worked to save him.

Our Gospel message today is that everyone can be saved. Do everything with Love and never give up on someone.