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Unity in Christ
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Opening Prayer: My Lord, I believe you are more interested in being with me right now than I can grasp. You never cease watching out over me. How happy I imagine you are that I am turning my attention to you in prayer today. Help me to put aside any concern or distraction, trusting that you will take care of whatever preoccupies my heart. I offer this time to you, because you first thought of me and deserve all my love and praise. How I need your grace to be open to allow your love to grow in me and work through me in touching the lives of all those I meet today.
- Christ Builds His Church: Jesus was instructing the Twelve to prepare them to lead his church. Jesus knew full well those he called and how he wanted his church to be organized. Jesus shared his spirit with the Twelve, establishing the community of believers upon the foundation of the Apostles. How extraordinary that he shared with them the power in his name to bind or loose here on earth as in heaven. As Jesus’s time of earthly lordship was ending, he expressly transferred his authority to those he had chosen. The church was the desired and willed invention of Christ to continue exercising his lordship. Let us ask for a more vibrant and robust faith to trust in his power and grace still at work through the mystical body of the church. It is a good reflection to ask myself, “What efforts I make to reconcile others to God and with the church.”
- Called to Love One Another: Jesus is gentle, merciful, and compassionate when he tells us, as members of his body the church, that we are responsible for one another. He clearly explains that one aspect of loving each other is building up and correcting our brothers and sisters when they err. This is never an easy task, for it implies the risk of rejection or misunderstanding. Fraternal correction must always be inspired by real charity as a spiritual work of mercy. We are to want the best for each other by holding each other accountable, not by judging. Christ is appealing to us as his beloved to have the same selfless and caring attitude as he has for each soul. He asks us to go after wandering sheep, to do everything possible to bring them back to the safety of the fold. Where might the Lord be inviting me to carry out a true act of love by instructing a loved one or friend in the truth?
- Christ Is with Us: Christ likes to be with us. But he loves even more that we gather in his name especially as a spiritual family in faith around the table of the Eucharist. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). When we are joined together in prayer, he joins us and assures us that the Father is most pleased and will favor us. Jesus is with us, attentively accompanying us and deeply caring about every encounter, every decision, every challenge, every triumph I face today. Even as I come alone before the Lord in prayer, I am united with others who are at prayer at this same moment. Thank you Jesus for surrounding me with your love through my parish community and the universal church!
Conversing with Christ: Lord, it makes me sad to see that there is division and disunity within my family, my parish community, and the world around me. Yet, how much more your heart must ache and suffer for your beloved children! How and in what way do you need me to be an instrument of unity and reconciliation? Have I made you happy with how I love others and build up your kingdom? Where can I still grow to reach out and invite others to return to you? You know how much I want to follow you and live in your friendship. I want to love others with a courageous and selfless heart. Touch my heart with the fire of your love to be your apostle of peace and unity.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray for the conversion of sinners and unity within the church. Concretely, I will do my part to recall the relationships in my life that need reconciliation and the gift of your forgiveness. For anyone I have caused hurt or harm I will pray for your mercy, and where you ask me I will reach out and seek their forgiveness.
For Further Reflection: Watch the Conference from The Father of Mercies: A Retreat Guide the parable of the prodigal son by Father John Bartunek, LC. As always, this Retreat Guide is available in audio, video, and textual formats.
Written by Lucy Honner, CRC