Ezekiel 33: 7-9
Romans 13: 8-10
Matthew 18: 15-20
23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
If Today You Hear God’s Voice Harden Not Your Heart.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes that the Torah found God to be both Transcendent and Immanent. And the Jewish religion is based on Faith and Love.
The transcendent God, whom Christians call Father, refers to God creating and ruling the world. The immanent God, whom Christians call the Holy Spirit, is close to his people. For ancient Jews the immanence of God was frightening.
Christians have a third aspect of God- The Incarnation: Jesus. Jesus’ professed the signs and wonders that occurred through him showed the nearness of the “Kingdom of God.” In short the “Kingdom of God” is discovered through Love and the “Kingdom of God” is lost through hardness of heart.
Christianity is based on Love, Faith, and Hope. From Jesus, Christians find the immanence of God hopeful, but often disappointing because we tend to harden our hearts towards God and one another.
Today’s readings tell us three ways to act in bringing about the “Kingdom.” Ezekiel talks of responsibility. “I (God) have appointed (a) watchman for the house of Israel…you (Ezekiel) shall warn them for me… I will hold you responsible.” While Ezekiel was given the burden of responsibility for Israel, we are given the responsibility for our own spheres of influence…. If like Ezekiel, we act with love, even when it is hard, God will be with us and grace will come from it.
Paul writes, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…” To live in the “Kingdom” is to soften our hearts, but it is also place that we accept love from others. The obligation then is not like a debt that we owe, but a life that is shared.
Through loving, the “Kingdom” enters our lives, but it is not a Utopia or Eden. Loving leaves us open to being hurt. Jesus was a realist. He experienced life with its pains and disappointments. He tells us that we will be wronged and hurt not only by strangers, but by those who are close to us. This is how to act. “… Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone… If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you …. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, then treat him as an (outsider)…”, but with an openness to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Finally Jesus tells us, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” While we are responsible to one another, do not forget that Jesus is responsible to us too.
So, If today you hear God’s voice harden not your heart.