If you typically focus on your own behavior and happiness, without regard for the actions of others, today’s readings are especially for you. The second reading is a reminder to love others, and the first reading and the Gospel are calls to reject complicity with corruption. These principles are important ideals that are timely given our current political leaders and the nearness of the election season.
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Rom 13:9)
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
What can you do to condemn corruption in society?
What actions can you take to be more selfless?
How can you exercise your right to vote to help create a just society?
In the Letter to the Romans, Paul quotes portions of the Ten Commandments that call for ethical behavior (Ex 20:13-17, Dt 5:17-21). He says that the laws can be fulfilled when you “love your neighbor as yourself,” a command from the book of Leviticus that Jesus also quotes in the Gospels. Often, the word used here for love (Gk. agape) is emphasized as a selfless action that is modeled on God’s love for creation. The call to love “as yourself” is also important. This adds reciprocity to the equation, requiring us to condition our treatment of others on how we want to be treated. This reminds us to give thought to how our actions affect others. As the events of the last months reveal, many people have been treated with contempt and disregard rather than love. If we would not want such treatment, we should not treat people in that manner; moreover, we should not elect people who openly promote hate over love.
In the first reading from Ezekiel, the prophet is told to warn people about living in the midst of corruption. God instructs Ezekiel to tell wicked people to correct their behavior. If he does this, and the wicked refuse to change, the wicked are solely guilty for their actions. But if Ezekiel refuses to speak out against the wicked, God casts blame on both Ezekiel and the wicked people.
This reading holds an important gem: Failure to act against corruption makes you a passive participant in corruption. If you find political leaders to be morally corrupt and you still vote for them because of your own selfish interests, shortsightedness or intentional naïveté, you contribute to corruption in society. Jesus affirms a similar message in the Gospel.
Jesus speaks to his followers about how they should react to the sinful behavior of people in their community. Rather than ignore it, they must address corruption and attempt to correct it. If they encounter a person who sins against them, Jesus’ followers are to confront the offender. If the person refuses to change, Jesus advises a group of two or three people to confront the person, a legal maneuver that calls for witnesses to participate and help apply pressure for moral behavior. If the person is still not motivated to change, then the larger community is instructed to call out corruption. Jesus then empowers the community, saying, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
In the Gospel reading for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, this power was given to Peter when he received the keys to the kingdom, and it is interpreted as giving Peter authority to lead. In today’s reading, the entire community is given authority to hold its members to account and rectify wrongful acts. The Gospel tells us that we have a duty with respect to the moral failings of others: to call them to conversion and avoid complicity in their sin. It should inspire us to speak out to promote love and justice in society and to require the same of our leaders.