Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - September 6, 2020
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
On the Twenty-Third Sunday of the Year, the scriptures encourage disciples of Jesus Christ to be about the work of peacemaking and reconciling. This week and next week, passages from the 18th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel present Jesus’ teaching to his disciples about their life together. Life together – among those who gather in the name of Jesus Christ – is to be marked by a perpetual concern for one another and endless efforts to work for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Like the prophet Ezekiel before him, Jesus appreciates that some things must be said, in love and with conviction, to those with whom we share life, family, and community. When difficulties of relationship arise, some steps need to be taken. Knowing how difficult this can be, because of the hurt or pride that may be involved, disciples are nonetheless challenged to take the initiative – the first step – in the process of bringing healing and reconciliation. To be sure, Jesus and Matthew are speaking about more than simply the community's order and health. It is about Christ’s presence in the community – in the Church that Christ promised to remain with until the end of time.
The challenging words of Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel come to clarity in the passage's final verse. Those who gather – not just for prayer but also for the resolution of an offense - need to come together in Christ’s name. They must meet in full realization that they belong to the risen Lord and gather in his presence and under his guidance. Christian disciples at odds with one another who come together to work for reconciliation, despite the sin, offense, and hurt feelings that separate them, can find both strength and humility by the awareness of Christ’s presence in their midst. Indeed, it is for his sake that they strive for reconciliation.
When we hear and respond to Christ’s instruction, we move closer to the communion – the divine unity – to which God calls us in Christ. We reflect and demonstrate care for the other that is like the shepherd’s care for the one lost sheep. Gathering in the name of Christ, we truly begin to live the encouragement St. Paul gave to the Romans: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.”
May that truly happen for us all!