“Yo’ Bro’ – You Royally Screwed Up This Time!” – Mt 18: 15-20†


Just a few days left before I make my “Total Consecration to Jesus, Through Mary!”  I would love to share a very small portion from the devotion.  This was in yesterdays reading:

Unfortunately, so many people care little or nothing about the Word of God, even though they have heard it time and again, because they do not have the spirit of Christ.  Yet, if you really want to understand the Words of Christ, you must try to pattern your whole life on His.”

“What good is it to know the entire Bible by heart and to learn the sayings of all the philosophers if you live without grace and the Love of God?”

 

Today in Catholic History:


†   1253 – Death of St. Clare of Assisi, Franciscan and Founder of the Poor Clare Nuns (b. 1194)
†   1890 – John Henry Cardinal Newman, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1801)

 (From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) 

  

Quote or Joke of the Day:

  
    

“The good of the collective is based on the good of the individual.” – John Hough :>
      

    

Today’s reflection is about what excommunication really is; and prayer.
      

15 “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.  16 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.’  17 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.  18 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.  19 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.  20  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (NAB Mt 18: 15-20)

 

As meant for those who have strayed from Jesus’ path to salvation, the lesson in today’s Gospel Reading turns to how Jesus’ disciples are to deal with anyone who sins, and remains within the Church community, even though unrepentant.

For the sinner, first there is to be a private correction.  If this is unsuccessful, then there is a further correction before two or three witnesses.  And, if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the Church communities and leadership), and if the sinner refuses to listen and act on the correction of the Church, the person is to be expelled from the Church body (excommunicated).  The Church’s judgment, Jesus expounds in this bible reading, WILL be ratified in heaven by God.  

Most good models for correcting behavior seem to follow this approach in the workplace.  The standard is to first give an oral counseling: a one-on-one type of re-education, which should have NO impact on the employee’ status, if they comply.  If the behavior still does not change, the employer asserts a correction attempt through a single, or series of, formal (maybe written) notice(s) of poor behavior, with specific goals for the employee to achieve by a certain point.  Failure at this time could result in further disciple, including suspension and dismissal from employment.  If still not repented, the employee goes before a human resources (HR) hearing/evaluation which usually results in suspension or probable termination.

We do the same things in our own families.  How often do we re-teach safety and household living behaviors to our children, with escalating modes of discipline for repeated deviations in behavior?  My children still shudder, even as teenagers, when I say “time-out is about to commence.”

 “Your brother,” in the verses above, refers to the fellow disciples in the Catholic Church community of the time.  Later in Matthew’s Gospel (23:8), Jesus reiterates this by saying, “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.”  

The words, “against you,” in the first sentence of today’s gospel, creates the potential for a dualistic approach to this one sentence.  The omission of these two words in brackets definitely broadens the scope and type of sins in question. Without the words, the verse is saying that you should notify the individual of his errors, every single time he sins, regardless of how minor the offense, or too whom the offense was directed.  Though we are obliged to tell people when they are in error, and especially when in danger of harming their soul, I definitely can see this verse being majorly abused by a few people.  We all know people that get into everybody else’s “business.”  How do you feel when they approach you?  I bet it is not welcoming or Christian.  My caveat to this sentence is to remember to preach with love, and to remember that we are ALL sinners.

By bringing the repentant sinner back into the fold of the Catholic Church, the Church itself gains that soul for salvation, and eternity in heaven.  The term “won over” literally means “gained” in the context of this gospel interpretation.

When Jesus said, “ … take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses,’” He was referring to the Old Testament Law found in Deuteronomy 19:15: “One witness alone shall not take the stand against a man in regard to any crime or any offense of which he may be guilty; a judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”   Please remember, the goal is to bring someone back into God’s grace, and not to “gang-up” on the person.  The individuals (the witnesses) need to have a loving and caring approach in breaching the person’s inappropriate behavior.

When Jesus refers to “the Church,” this is the second of the only two instances of the word “Church” to be found in all four gospels.  The other instance is also found in Matthew’s Gospel, 16: 18: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  In this latter case (16:18), Jesus’ “Church” means the community of disciples that He will gather together; and like a structural building, this community of disciples will have Peter as its solid foundation – a “rock” to build on.  In the case of today’s Gospel reading, the small distinction is that it probably does not refer to the entire Church body like in Matthew 16:18, but only to the local congregation of followers in the town, instead of the entire Catholic (meaning universal) Church.

“Treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”  Hmm, sounds like a pretty harsh treatment to me!  After all, how many people like to hear that a tax or bill collector is at the door, or on the phone?  How many people invite the bill collectors, and other enemies to dinner?  Observant Jews of this time in bible history avoided any relationships or camaraderie with Gentiles and tax collectors.  For me, this is profoundly interesting, since Matthew was a lucrative tax-collector prior to his conversion, through Jesus.  Proves to me that there is definitely hope for us all, through Jesus’ salvation and redemption.

In this verse about Gentiles and tax-collectors, Jesus is saying to the congregation of Christian disciples to separate themselves from the arrogantly sinful member who refuses to repent, especially when convicted of their sin by the entire Church.  The person in this case has purposefully excluded themselves from the fellowship of the Church community through their own action and/or reaction.  This person had, by their refusal, self-excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

I see this problem in excess with today’s society; at least in the United States.  It seems Catholics today like to pick and choose which tenant of the Church to obey, and which of those that is of no importance to them.  This is evident with the numbers of Catholics attending Sunday Mass: about 30%.  Sadly, seventy percent ARE NOT GOING TO MASS, except maybe for CHRISTmas and Easter!  My children, in an ironic joke, call these people “C&E” Catholics.

Other tenets of dissent from CATHOLICS include, but definitely are not limited to, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, including same-sex marriage, the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, and even Papal Authority.  I am sure there are many other issues, but I’ll just leave it at this.  On reviewing this list, it is identical to the problems protestant faiths have with Catholicism. 

Sadly, this condition in the Catholic Church is because of poor catechesis in the past couple of decades.  Educating these poor souls is essential, for their eternal survival, and the Church’s.  At the end of the day though, I truly believe in what our late and Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said, “There is something a Catholic can do if he or she disagrees with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  You can change your mind, or you can change your mind!”  

The harsh language about Gentiles and tax collectors probably reflects a period in the time of Matthews’ participation in the local Synagogue, when it was principally composed of Jewish Christians, and very few Gentiles followed Jesus. This aforementioned time had long since passed when Matthews Gospel was written around 50 A.D., but the principle of exclusion for such a sinner still remained, even years after Jesus’ crucifixion.  

Paul makes a similar demand in 1 Cor 5:1-13, when he gives extremely clear advice on how to handle any case wherein a member of the Catholic Church  is caught up in immoral behaviors and actions.  Paul gives a strong case for excommunication, ending with what is written in 1 Cor 5:13: “God will judge those outside. Purge the evil person from your midst.”

There are many examples in Jewish literature of this “binding-loosing” image.  Except for the plural of the verbs “bind” and “loose,” the verse in today’s reading is practically identical with Matthew 16:19b, – “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  This phrase is understood by scholars as granting to all the disciples, what was previously given to only to Peter.  There can easily be several meanings to this particular verse, but two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, AND the lifting or imposition of excommunication.  

All Catholics are to go out into the world and witness to God – to live and preach His word.  Someone who purposefully excludes themselves from the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, through their own action and/or reaction is self-excommunicated.  All the Catholic Church is pronouncing, when saying someone is excommunicated, is the recognition of the individual’s own deviation from the path of salvation.  It is to be considered a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty.  Excommunication is meant not to punish, but to correct the person’s belief or behavior, and to bring the person back to a path of righteousness and salvation.  Excommunication is always done through love for the individual, and the Church Community.

The excommunicated person does not cease to be a Christian.  One’s baptism cannot ever be cancelled, as baptism creates a permanent and everlasting mark on one’s soul.  However, the excommunicated person is, in essence, “exiled” from Catholic society, and as non-existent in the eyes of ecclesiastical authority.  The excommunicated offender’s status before the Catholic Church is, sadly, that of a stranger.  Thankfully, such an exile immediately ends as soon as the offender has given a suitable remedy for their offense, as judged by the ecclesiastical authority.  

The right to excommunicate is a necessary corollary of the fact that the Catholic Church is a society, a community, of people.  Every society has to have the right to exclude and deprive unworthy and culpable members from its “rights and social advantages,” either on a temporarily or permanent basis. This right of exclusion is necessary, by natural law, to every society, in order that it can run smoothly and without interruption, for its own survival.

Excommunication, especially “a jure,” is either “latæ” or “ferendæ sententiæ.”  The first (latæ) is incurred as soon as the offence is committed, by reason of the offence itself without any intervention from an ecclesiastical judge.  The person is excommunicated at once by the fact or acts itself!  Examples are those people that performs, assists in, or obtains an abortion, in direct violation of natural and Canon Law, and are automatically excommunicated.

The second (ferendæ sententiæ) is inflicted on someone only by a judicial sentence.  It occurs only when an ecclesiastical judge has summoned the person before a tribunal (a type of court trial); has declared the person guilty; and punished him according to the terms of Canon law.  You will know this type of excommunication by these or similar words: “under pain of excommunication … will be excommunicated”.  A recent example in my area was for Catholics attending or assisting at the ordination of women priests or a bishop, in direct violation of Canon Law.

The Gospel reading ends with a verse about a favorable response from God to our prayers.  Even if that number of followers gathered together is a very small number, Jesus will be in their midst.  Do you take the ending verses in today’s Gospel Reading about granting prayers from groups, as applying to prayer on the occasion of the Church’s gathering to deal with the sinner that is not repented?  I think it seems unlikely.  God’s answering of prayer from a very small group envisions a totally different situation from that involving an entire congregation praying in union.  Also, the target of the prayer in the last two sentences of this Gospel Reading is expressed in a very “general way;” presuming, anything for which they are praying, will be answered.

Some see the last sentence of today’s Gospel reading as meaning that the presence of Jesus seems to guarantee the worth and effectiveness of prayer.  The bible verse is extremely similar in perspective to one attributed to a rabbi that was executed in A.D. 135, during the second Jewish revolt: “… When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqe Abot 3:3).  WOW!  What a promise to make.  Or is it?

Jesus, in reality, isn’t talking about some type of magical formula to get whatever we wish.  We can’t win a MEGA lottery with some sort of prayer!  What Jesus is stating in these bible verses, is that it is good to have someone else praying with us. for like petitions or intention requests.

The two or three people praying together, is not limited, in any way, to geographical locations.  You do not have to be physically together for Jesus to be in your midst.  No matter how far apart you may be physically, if you and others are praying for the same intention, Jesus IS WITH YOU!  This is the major emphasis of the “Divine Office:” the prayer of the Church.  At any given moment, people across the world, AND in heaven, are praying this prayer – with God in their midst!

It isn’t easy waiting, and trusting in God, at times of stress and need.  Praying with another is encouraging and helpful for our mental being and spiritual souls.  Friends help us discern God’s direction.  So, keep persevering in your prayer life, and see how the Trinity works in you, AND your prayer partners.  Together, you can give each other a great piece of mind during times of sorrow or tribulations.  Maybe this peace IS the unintentional answer to your prayer.

 

Act of Hope

 

“O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.  Amen”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Clare of Assisi 1194-1253

 

At the beginning of the 13th century, when luxury and sensuality held sway, St. Francis of Assisi made his appearance, giving to men the example of a poor and penitential life. But God wished also to give the vain and pleasure-loving women of that period an example of contempt of the world’s vanities. For this mission he chose Clare, the daughter of a prominent and noble family of Assisi, born January 20, 1194. Her father was Favarone de Offreduccio, count of Sassorosso; her mother, the servant of God Ortolana, who died in the odor of sanctity.

Before the child’s birth it was revealed to the mother that her offspring would be a brilliant light in the world. This light the mother detected in her daughter from her earliest years. Besides being favored with personal beauty, Clare possessed a charming personality and rare qualities of mind. She was a favorite in the family, and hardly had she attained to young womanhood, when several suitors sought her in marriage.

But her virtues surpassed the gifts with which nature endorsed her. She interested herself in the poor and frequently denied herself things so as to be able to give more to the poor members of Christ. She loved prayer, and it was her sweetest delight to surrender her heart to sentiments of ardent devotion before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Beneath her beautiful garments she wore a sharp penitential belt in order to honor the sufferings of Christ and to preserve herself a chaste virgin for His sake.

She was 18 years old when she heard St. Francis preach in the cathedral of Assisi during the Lent of 1212. His words on contempt of the world and on penance, and particularly the holy example he set, so earnestly affected Clare, that she conferred with him and soon recognized that God was calling her to lead a life similar to his in the seclusion of a convent. She did not hesitate to carry out God’s plans. Realizing that her family, intent only on a brilliant future for her in the world, would oppose her vocation in every way, she had to leave home in secret.

On Palm Sunday she went to church, dressed in her richest garments, to attend divine services. That night, attended by an elderly relative, she went to the little chapel of Sty. Mary of the Angels, where St. Francis and his brethren came to meet her with lighted candles in their hands. Before the altar she removed her beautiful head-dress, then St. Francis cut off her hair and covered her head with a veil of common linen. In place of rich garments, she received a coarse penitential garb and was girded with a white cord. This was the way in which the mother and founder of the Poor Clares was invested on March 18, 1212. For the time being, St. Francis placed her in a convent of Benedictine sisters.

When Clare had successfully overcome the great opposition of her family, who had intended to force her to return home, her sister Agnes joined her in the sacrifice. St. Francis arranged a little convent for them near the church of St. Damian. There the number of consecrated virgins soon increased. They served God in great poverty, strict penance, and complete seclusion from the world according to a rule which St. Francis gave them as his Second Order. Clare was obliged in obedience to accept the office of abbess in 1215 and to continue in it for 38 years until her death. But her love for humility found compensation in the performance of the lowliest services toward her sisters. In spite of her great physical sufferings, she set her sisters a striking example of zeal in penance and prayer.

In the year 1240 an army of Saracens who were in the service of Emperor Frederick II drew near Assisi. They rushed upon the little convent of St. Damian that lay outside the city and had already scaled the walls of the monastery. In mortal fear the sisters had recourse to their mother, who was ill in bed.

The saint, carrying the pyx containing the Most Blessed Sacrament, had herself carried to a convent window. There she pleaded fervently with the Lord of heaven in the words of the Psalmist (Ps 73:19), “Deliver not up to beasts the souls, that confess to thee, and shield thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.” A mysterious voice coming from the Host said, “I shall always watch over you.” Immediately panic seized the besiegers. A ray of brilliant light which emanated from the Blessed Sacrament had dazzled them. They fell down from the walls and fled from the place. The convent was saved and the town of Assisi was spared.

After suffering from serious illness for 30 years, Clare felt that her end was drawing nigh. After she had received the last sacraments, she and one of her sisters beheld the Queen of Virgins coming with a large escort to meet her, the spouse of Jesus Christ. On August 11, 1253, she entered into the joys of eternity and on the following day her body was buried. Pope Alexander IV canonized her already in the year 1255. She was chosen as the universal patroness of television in 1958.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm.,
© 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From
http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #11 of 26:  

Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly.  Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

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One response »

  1. Hi Dan, thanks for this entry in your blog. I learned a lot from the writing on excommunication. If we would be so forthcoming with our Catholic politicians (i.e. Speaker Pelosi, etc.) maybe the society we live in would be closer to being the Kingdom of God. I’m glad for the Sacrament of Reconciliation for those of us that sinned deeply in our youth and are now reaping those rewards of God’s mercy and love.

    I wanted to share the happy news that I have reached a milestone. My SFO Formation Director says I’ll be ready to start my Inquiry stage in October. Imagine my delight that this occasion will be celebrated on October 3, the day before Holy Father Francis’ Holy Day!

    I also wanted to thank you for the posting of our Rules. I can see that the Lord has provided opportunities to do much of the Rules before I even knew of their existence. For instance I own a home, my husband and I each have one car, etc. However, I don’t carry a lot of baggage in my living. I don’t have a desire for a lot of clothes, shoes (I have seen some real obsessions…) jewelry for instance. But I like the challenge of not wanting more power in my life. I am a Scouter and a planner by nature. I want to make note of the many times I will plan something and go that extra step to make it easy for the target to accept my proposals. Ah to let go of expectations of others. Even at the tender age of 51, I have so much more to learn.

    Anyway, please have a blessed day. I don’t comment all the time due to time constraints but your blog opens up my world to Franciscan values. A debt of gratitude to you, kind sir. Congrats on almost completing your Consecration.

    Always,
    Sylvia Murdolo

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