Year A: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

God in divine community creates and is mirrored in our human community. When we meet in his name, he is there too.

Three women praying

Ezekiel 33: 7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

The dialogue with God is always aimed at the community, even if it must always start with an individual. Why? Because God has everyone in mind. God is an inclusivist, excluding no one from the dialogue. Ezekiel is a partner in dialogue. But he is appointed as a sentry to the House of Israel – through one man to the many, to the community. And so, the dialogue forms a community whose members are responsible for one another – even or especially in matters of life and death, goodness and wickedness.  This is the nature of the divine and it reveals something of how God is. God is defined as ‘He who loves us into a loving partnership with Himself and with one another’.  And more – the dialogue reveals that God wills the salvation of all and wants no person to be lost.

Paul takes it further: all that God demands can be summed up in the one word of the divine dialogue: ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’  For someone like Paul, raised as a Pharisee, a Jew dedicated to the minutiae of the law, for him to be able to say this – is a miracle and can only be explained as being the result of some sort of conversion experience!  He has been given insight into the meaning of the divine dialogue. It has one word to say – love.

Jesus witnesses to the power and centrality of our human dialogues. He says to his disciples correct a brother; take one or two others; take two or three witnesses; involve the community. The pattern of dialogue is here – from the one individual to the community. Then, the final degradation – exclusion from the dialogue meant to encompass all – regards them like tax collectors and pagans. This is odd (as Nicholas King remarks in his NT commentary) given Jesus’ predilection for such folk and his inclusion of them. Is Matthew simply reflecting the attitudes of his day, perhaps?  Jesus then stresses that dialogue is not simply one way – it has a community dimension – where two or three meet in his name, he will be there too. God in divine community creates and is mirrored in our human community.