Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
The Decalogue of community life
“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.” Mt 18,15-20
When you establish an association or a company, you draw a charter which, together with the goals to reach, sets the rules and behaviours for the people who are to collaborate. This is what Matthew did when he wrote chapter 18 of his gospel. Maybe with his time’s community in his mind, he collected that teaching by Jesus which sets the rules for a Christian life in common. These rules make up the Decalogue to be respected so that a family, or a community, may last, grow and be a witness of life, even in today’s world. The first rule mentioned in today’s excerpt is the “brotherly correction”, that is the will, in front of the unavoidable mistakes, to help each other to admit them and go beyond them. Before this rule, Jesus had revealed who was to be considered as the greatest one in a community: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18,4). In the gospel, being the greatest does not mean being the chief, but being the first one to serve and welcome: “And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Mt 18, 5). Jesus then condemns the scandals which disturb and block the progress of a community and destroy it (Mr 18, 6-8). Scandal is not only a behaviour against the common morality: scandal is also chattering, swearing (both quite fashionable nowadays) and pursuing one’s own interest at the expense of the brothers. There follows the parable of the lost sheep (Mt 18,12-14): in a family or a community, if a person loses himself, it is necessary to do everything to have him back. Jesus then invites to “forgiveness”: forgiveness is the golden rule for every life in common (Mt 18, 21-22), as shown by those marriages which could overcome their crises thanks to the ability to forgive. Finally, today’s gospel ends with an exhortation to pray together, since the Lord listens to the community prayer. This words are encouraging, since they stimulate in each brother the will to present the Lord with our requests all together.