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September 6, 1996     The Message
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September 6, 1996

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6, 1996 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 11 -- Commentary-- Reaction to offenses: Power of the Christian community Gospel Commentary for September 8, 1996: Twenty- Third Sunday: Ordinary Time: Cycle A: Matthew 18:15-20 Matthew 18 is the fourth of the five great discourses or ser- mons attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. The author col- lected sayings of Jesus and en- hanced them with other traditions that grew around those sayings in the sermon on the mount, the mis- sionary discourse, and the parable chapter. He follows the same pat- tern in this fourth discourse which .... ! '' ,% By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST is called 'church regulations." The first part of this sermon is concerned with the scandal of neglect of the poor and the powerless. They are closest to God, Matthew tells his readers. Church leaders are to be- ware of neglecting them, because the "little ones" have powerful ambassadors in the presence of God: "Their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew moves on to another subject needing attention in the Christian community for which he was writing, the important matter of Correcting oth- ers who commit offenses against oneself and espe- cially against the Christian community. Correction is to take place between oneself alone and the of- fender. If this correction is to no avail, one or two others may join in the correction. If the offender also rejects this limited community effort, he is to be turned over to the whole church community for some kind of trial. If this effort also fails, i.e. if there is no repentance, no change of mind or action, the offender is regarded as separated from the commu- nity. This may have been a type of shunning or excommunication. This procedure was quite in line with advice given two centuries earlier in the Book of Sirach: "Ques- tion your friend; he may have done nothing at all, and if he has done anything, he will not do it again. Question'your neighbor; he may have said nothing at all, and if he has said anything, he will not say it again. Question your friend, for slander is very common. Do not be- lieve all you hear. People some- times slip without meaning what they say, and which of us has never sinned by speech? Question your neighbor before you threaten him, and leave scope for the Law of the Most High." Matthew next points out that a decision to sep- arate or reintegrate a member of the Christian com- munity is binding in conscience: "Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you re- lease on earth is released in heaven." This sounds very much like the power bestowed on Simon Peter in Matthew 16:19. They are in fact the same words in the original Greek except a change from singular in 16:19 to plural in 18:18. Does the Christian com- munity therefore have the same power as Peter? It might be said that the Christian community does have the power of binding and releasing but not the power of the keys, which was given to Peter. That does not clarify much. Our church community does profess that the bishop of Rome succeeds to the au- thority of Peter. What might be added because of the authority of binding and releasing given to the whole Christian community is this, the bishop of Rome never speaks alone. As the head of the Chris- tian community he enunciates the faith of that com- munity of which he proclaims himself "servant of the servants of God." Matthew, who elsewhere in his gospel warns against abuse of authority, may have added 18:18; i.e. the power of the whole church, as a counterbalance to the power given to Peter in 16:19. This much can be said in view of Matthew 18:18, the successor to Peter has an obligation to consult the faithful in matters of faith even as he guides them into the truth. That policy was followed in the evolu- tion of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and her Assumption. In other words, biblically speaking, the faithful are not merely passive sheep. Finally Matthew adds an independent saying attributed to Jesus, a saying that puts an exclama- tion point to the authority of the whole Christian community assembled for decision-making: "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." This addition by Matthew not only affirms the dignity and value of all Christians, no matter what their status in the Church, but it boldly asserts that the presence of Jesus is something more than human presence. There are similar statements preserved outside the Scriptures: "If two sit together and words of the Torah (Bible} are spoken between them, the Divine Presence rests upon them," and, "If ten sit together and occupy themselves with the Law (Torah), the Divine Presence rests among them." Thus Matthew will end his gospel with a final appearance of Jesus, now in glory, and saying: "I am with you always, to end of the age." Readings: Ezekiel 33:7.9; Romans 13:8.10. Funeral Homes EAST CHAPEL Four 8o0 s, HEBRON AVENUE Convenient Locations MUENSTERMAN'S FIRESTONE SERVICE, INC. 1400 W. Franklin Evansville, IN 424-5000  'anoAasStuo I Sarah W. Bcx. BM. MA. FRFE FIRST LESSON A I1 ages: Play with pleasure 1201 S. Bennighof Evansville, IN 47714 (812) 477-2233 - Ed.L. 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