This morning in Plan Grande I’ll be baptizing a young man who will be married this coming Saturday. As I planned my homily I began to ask what it means to be incorporated into the Church, the People of God at this time and place.
To be baptized is not to join the church, to change one’s religion. It’s to be made – perhaps better, re-made – into a member of a People, a community, God’s people.
But what does this mean in light of today’s readings?
“Have no debt except to love one another,” Paul wrote to the Romans (13:8).
But love does not mean a life without conflicts. It means living in conflicts with love, maintaining relationships. Within the People of God, Jesus is present – where two or three are gathered together. (Matthew 18:15-20)
Within this community in Jesus, we are called approach problems, conflicts, sin – also remembering that Jesus is present and seeks reconciliation.
There are two aspects of the Gospel reading that struck me this morning.
First, the Greek manuscripts have two different readings. In some, the Greek says, “If anyone sins.” In others, it reads, “If anyone sins against me.” Quite different. But still, the message is maintain the conversation within the framework of the People of God.
Secondly, the text says that if someone doesn’t listen to the church, the People of God, we are to treat that person as the pagan and the tax-collector.
At first, this seems to say that we must reject the one who refuses to be reconciled or who refuses to give up his or her sin. But, in a footnote to a new Spanish translation of the New Testament (prepared under the auspices of CELAM, the Latin American Bishops Conference,, the editors remind us that we must look at how Jesus treated the pagans (Matthew 8: 5-13 and 9: 18-26) and the tax collectors (Matthew 9: 9-13) – with mercy!
We are called to always maintain the mutual love which we owe to all – even if they don’t want to be reconciled with us or if they persist in sin.
Within the People of God – Mercy, mercy, mercy.
To all – Mercy, mercy, mercy.
Owe no one nothing but mercy.