Bringing Home My Stray Brethren
God shows to Moses the land he had promised to his people. They will enter and occupy it under the leadership of Joshua.
What if my brother or sister goes astray? One of the most difficult and delicate tasks is to bring a brother or sister back when he or she errs. It is a duty, but one that requires courage and at the same time much tact, the right moment and the right disposition on both sides. It is my concern, because he or she is my brother or sister, vulnerable as I am, and wounded. But Jesus goes further and encourages public or community prayers (witnessing): “where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name” means an Assembly of God’s children, his faithful. The devil can never withstand us if we stand together in the name of the Lord.
1 Reading: Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the headland of Pisgah which faces Jericho, and the LORD showed him all the land—Gilead, and as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the circuit of the Jordan with the lowlands at Jericho, city of palms, and as far as Zoar. The LORD then said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you shall not cross over.” So there, in the land of Moab, Moses, the servant of the LORD, died as the LORD had said; and he was buried in the ravine opposite Beth-peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the place of his burial. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were undimmed and his vigour unabated. For thirty days the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab, till they had completed the period of grief and mourning for Moses. Now Joshua, son of Nun, was filled with the spirit of wisdom, since Moses had laid his hands upon him; and so the children of Israel gave him their obedience, thus carrying out the LORD’s command to Moses. Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and against all his land, and for the might and the terrifying power that Moses exhibited in the sight of all Israel.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 66:1-3a, 5 and 8, 16-17
R. (cf. 20a and 10b) Blessed be God who filled my soul with fire!
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God: “How tremendous are your deeds!” R.
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
Bless our God, you peoples;
loudly sound his praise. R.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
When I appealed to him in words,
praise was on the tip of my tongue. R.
Alleluia: 2 Corinthians 5:19
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20
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.”
Moses died at a very old age and was buried in Moab without ever entering the land of promise. He was unquestionably the greatest of the prophets, the man who had led his people to freedom, remained with them through their desert experience, and brought them to the point of entering the land that the Lord had promised. He will remain always the striking image of obedience and fidelity.
The church, early on, had to deal with problems of rejection and infidelity. Drawing on Old Testament precedent, today’s Gospel sets forth the norms that are to be followed. In the matter of a personal offense of some gravity, the person offended is to take the initiative at reconciliation. If this meets with success, the matter is closed. Where the offender remains obstinate, witnesses are to be called to attempt to change the person’s attitude. This failing, the local church is to be advised. Failure to heed even the church results in excommunication. The decision of the church in this matter is reinforced by God himself.
Within the church, certain actions incur automatic excommunication. But a trial to determine serious guilt and obstinacy is rare. Of far greater concern is what is referred to as “silent apostasy,” or a turning away from the church on one’s terms without any public stance being taken. This is serious as a rejection of the church in a grave matter and seriously harms one’s spiritual life. We approach the dissident person with kindness and understanding. It is far better to win a person over than to act with harshness or reproof. Our motive must always be a deep appreciation of the church as a source of life and direction and the good of the person involved. Accordingly, the supreme law of the Church is “salus animarum” – the salvation of souls.
We know we are responsible for one another. Our community should be a place where we can speak freely to one another and help those in trouble to keep them in the community or to win them back. May God give you this openness and courage, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.