Many people today equate love to not hurting or offending anyone and hating to speaking against sin. Yet, the First Reading clearly shows us our duty is to warn people when we hear God tell us to do so. If we do not, then we will be held accountable for the sin of that person when they die. The question now is, when will God tell us to speak? For one, if we are in positions of authority, we are called to speak against sin, even if it is not popular. But people will accuse us of hating because we offend them. This happens because the word love has been abused to mean not hurting anyone and hate is hurting someone’s feelings.
In the Second Reading, St Paul tells us the commandments … are summed up in this word: Love your neighbor as yourself. Now people will say, see, when I do not offend people, I love them, so I obey the commandments. Did St Paul mean that? He enumerated the commandments: you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal. You shall not covet... and any other commandment. Love results in not committing adultery, not committing murder, not stealing, not coveting or envying others. There is no such commandment that says you shall not offend your neighbor’s feelings. Real love, the love that comes from God, is one that is willing to suffer for the good of the other. When we speak against sin, people will be offended. The normal reaction from this is for them to strike back. When we love we should be willing to be hurt by those we correct.
A responsible parent who sees their child about to poke their finger in an electric outlet will stop the child from doing so. It is negligent of the parent if they say O look at that, that is so cute. Similarly, if we are in authority or when people ask us, we need to speak out against sin, because sin causes death to the sinner. And if we love the person who sins, we will speak out even if it offends them and if they hurt us in return.
In the Gospel, Jesus implies correcting a person, especially when they are in error, is an act of charity. Jesus tells us how to do this. First, speak to the person. If that person does not change, bring two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, bring that person to the Church. If that person still refuses to listen, then treat them as a Gentile or tax collector. In today’s context it means to have nothing to do with them. This is where the idea of excommunication comes from.
Excommunication means not in communion, or not in union. It is a disciplinary measure, with the hope the other person realizes their error and repents. While today, this is rarely done by bishops or the Pope, a person can excommunicate themselves from the Church by consciously doing something evil. A politician who publicly supports abortion, or a doctor or medical professional who is involved in an abortion procedure, automatically cuts themselves from the Church. This is why they cannot receive communion because communion is a sign of unity and if one has cut themselves off the Church, they are not in union of the Church. Even if they proclaim they are Catholics, their words will not change the reality.
A person who commits mortal sin is cut off from the life of God and of the Church therefore should not receive communion because the commit a worse sin by doing so. A mortal sin is committed when the commandments St Paul enumerated are broken.
There is however hope, if one is living in the state of mortal sin and if they want to turn back to the Lord. While the evil is done, there is always forgiveness. The Psalm today says O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts … when your ancestors tested me and put me to the proof, though they had seen my works. If today, you hear God calling you to come to him and seek forgiveness, go to confession and receive the healing and the mercy of God. Yes, you cannot turn back the time, you cannot change what has passed. Yes, the guilt is still there. Yes, the shame is there. But God is the God of second chances. He knows what you have done and he loves you anyway. Jesus calls you and he willingly gave up his life so you can have his. He wants you to come to him, despite what you have done. When you do, he will set you free from your guilt and your shame. The mercy of God knows no end and he will forgive, when we come to him and ask him for healing. God is interested in your past because he wants to transform it so you can live with him forever, here and now. Come to Jesus and find peace. If today, you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.
Jesus, I come to you in my brokenness. I have sinned and am ashame of what I have done. I repent of my sins and resolve not to do them again with the help of your grace. Yet, I know and you know, I will fall. But here I am, broken, ashamed, feeling guilty, hopeless, hurting, desolate. Take my life Lord and transform it. As to the evil I had done, in your power, use me to transform it for the glory of your name.
Thank you Jesus.