Scripture: Lectionary 415. Aug. 14. Deuteronomy 34:1-12. Psalm 66:1-126.96.36.199-17. Matthew 18:15-20:
Our narrative reading from Deuteronomy is similar to a eulogy for Moses who is described in his last days of life. The author gives us a short summary of this great prophet who handed on to us the Torah from God who revealed it to him. Certainly, this part of Deuteronomy is evidence that Moses did not write this eulogy! The Exodus is one of the greatest events in world history and even more in salvation history (Heilsgeschicte). Despite the high praise given to Moses we learn that he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land and that he died in the region of Moab probably near Mount Nebo. Joshua son of Nun would lead the people into the Land (Ha Aretz). God does give Moses a panoramic view of the Promised Land covering all points of the globe in the area that extends far beyond Israel of today.
As is customary, the Responsorial Psalm serves as a prayer for us as we reflect on this first reading. I was helped to realize the importance of the psalms in the words of St.Cyprian who says, “In the psalms God speaks to us and counsels us.”
In the Gospel of Matthew we have an ecclesial insight into the manner in which a member of the community is to be confronted for a sin or failing that is serious. The one who corrects him is the one who was offended or noticed the sin. He does not run to the authorities or courts with the observation, but fraternally approaches the offender and then strongly and gently confronts him. If that does not work then a few other members are asked to join him in bringing the matter to the culprit; finally, after several tries he brings it to the whole community and only then can the offender be asked to leave if he or she do not convert their way of behaving. Scandals are to be carefully confronted so that others do not imitate the one who commits the offense. Thus personal responsibility is involved, then community responsibility. We are not only accountable to God whom we do not see, but to the community of faith whom we do see. We may think we can go directly to God but the community needs to be involved if we are to have a conversion. There is no easy way out of this according to the ecclesial Gospel of Matthew. Our brothers and sisters know us better than we know ourselves when it comes to our failures. We may think we can hide our faults and sins, but others do know them and we do well to learn from them if we are courageous enough and trusting enough to listen without retaliation. Jesus ends this passage with his emphasis on prayer: “Again I tell you, if two of you join your voices on earth to pray for anything whatever, it shall be granted to you by my Father in heaven. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst.” (Matthew 18:19-20).
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.