Homily (Reflection) for Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time (I) (16th August, 2017) on the Gospel
Ps 65:1-3.5.16-17. (R. cf. vv.20.9);
Topic: Gentiles and tax collectors.
Jesus while teaching in today’s gospel gave steps towards reconciling with the offenders. They include going to the offender alone, going with one or two others, and presenting the matter to the church. He concludes, “… if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt 18:17).
The Jews classified the Gentiles and tax collectors among the worst sinners. Devout Jews are not expected to have anything to do with them not even making effort to convert them. In the early Church, some of the apostles and other Christians maintained this tradition. Hence they criticized Peter, cf. Acts 11:2.
However Jesus’ attitude towards them did not follow this tradition. In fact, it was among the barriers that prevented them from believing Him to be the son of God, cf. Mk 2:16; Lk 7:39. And His reply to those complaining against Him dinning and winning with the tax collectors and other sinners is, “… Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Matt 9:12-13; cf. Lk 5:32; Hos 6:6). He was even nicknamed “… a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matt 11:19).
Jesus instructs His followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, cf. Matt 5:44. We know that love bears all things and never ends, cf. 1Cor 13: 7-8). Saint Paul admonishes us, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Rom 12:14).
The summary of all the commandments given to Christians is to love everybody, cf. Matt 5:43-48; Jn 13:35; 1Jn 4:21. Saint Paul rightly noted that without love every gift and good deeds come to naught, cf. 1Cor 13:2-3. Our love ought not to be “… in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1Jn 3:18). Whoever hates is the real Gentile and tax collector. Saint Paul cautioned Saint Peter publicly “… If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal 2:14). After the three steps given by Jesus in today’s gospel comes the most important one, LOVE. We ought to love everybody no matter how difficult it is for we all have the same God, and are all members of the same body, the Church, cf. Rom 3:29; Eph 3:6.
Bible Reading: Matt 5:43-48; Lk 3:7-14; 5:27-32; 1Cor 13:1-13; Eph 2:11-3:21.
Thought for today: How do you treat your Gentiles and tax collectors?
Let us pray: Merciful God, give us a heart of flesh that we may love everybody even as you love us – Amen.
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