23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: Ez. 33:7–9

Thus says the LORD: You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.

Second reading: Rom. 13:8–10

Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Gospel: Mt. 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.”

In other words

by Fr. Magdaleno Fabiosa, SVD (Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

We encounter Jesus today in various and diverse ways, each one no less real than the other, because it is the Resurrected Christ that we meet in them. He is present in the Eucharist. We believe in the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine. Besides the Eucharist, the other Sacraments are privileged locus of encounter with the resurrected Christ. We encounter him in the Scriptures, the Word of God, which has a transforming power if put into practice. We meet him in every neighbor and the subtle whispers of our conscience. Then there is that presence that today’s Gospel talks about—his presence in the midst of those gathered together in his name.

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst!” Mere coming together, however, does not generate the presence of the Resurrected One. There is a condition present in this statement: “…in my name.”

Exegetical and theological research has reached a consensus that the meaning of the expression “in my name” is that those gathered together believe in Jesus and love him by doing God’s will, especially that of mutual love. So, we may paraphrase the last section of today’s Gospel in this way: wherever two or three, who believe in Jesus and try to love him by doing God’s will and loving each other, are gathered together, there the resurrected Christ will be present in their midst. These are the same conditions that Church Fathers and Doctors have taught to be conditions for being Church.

This truth about the presence of Jesus in our midst has interesting parallelism with the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, Jesus’ presence is mediated by the ministry of ordained priests who are given the power to represent the person of Jesus in the celebration of the Eucharist. Through the power given them in ordination they generate the presence of Jesus in every eucharistic celebration.

The last part of today’s Gospel speaks of another presence of Jesus mediated by any group of baptized who believe in God and love him by doing his will in loving each other. Somebody has said that this is the lay persons’ generating the presence of Jesus, a kind of the lay persons’ “eucharist.” It is the same resurrected one who is present in their midst, although not physically as in the eucharist, but no less the Spirit’s presence. This truth about the presence of Jesus being assured in the midst of those who believe in him and love him by doing his will, especially that of mutual love, has far-reaching consequences. It has unexplored possibilities. Jesus assured us that he has already conquered the world, and he wants to continue conquering the world of today through the power of his Spirit. For this to happen, the Spirit of the resurrected Christ must be present again in today’s world, and today’s gospel assures us of that presence among those who believe in him and try to love him by doing his will, especially that of mutual love.

Thus, a family who fulfills these conditions can generate the presence of the Resurrected Christ in their midst (they become an “ecclesiola,” as the Church Fathers attest). The Spirit of the Resurrected Christ present in their midst will be a potent force to bring change in their hearts and the hearts of people who come in contact with this family. A group of like-minded individuals (doctors, nurses, office personnel, teachers, students, etc., wherever they may be), who also fulfill the same conditions can also generate the same presence and power of him who came to conquer this world of ours. The power of the resurrection will dot our world to bring untold changes which only the Spirit has the creativity to bring about. “Do not be afraid, I have conquered the world.”

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