Admonish the Sinner?

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

Ezekiel by Michaelangelo

I used to think that God’s law was like those dumb rules we had to put up with in grammar school, like “Thou shalt not chew gum in class.”  They are arbitrary laws that bureaucrats came up with to keep them happy and the rest of us miserable.  The goal of students is to break such rules whenever they can get away with it.  The only bad consequence would be to get caught.

But God is not a bureaucrat.  He’s a loving Father.  If He says “thou shalt not,” it is because the particular activity in question wounds and, in some cases, destroys the child of God who engages in it.  But does not sin offend God?  Of course.  We are made in his image and likeness, and sin defaces that likeness in us.  It also wounds others made in his image and likeness.  There is no such thing as private sin–we are so interconnected that every decision to step away from God has incalculable impact on not only the sinner but on the whole family of God.

Some people correct others because they are busybodies.  Others, like the Pharisees, do so in order to exalt themselves as they put others down.  The disciple, however, intervenes out of love.  Love for God, for all his children, but especially for the sinner who is damaged the most by his own sin.

Many people think about God’s law as if it were just arbitrary bureaucratic regulations.  They are unaware that their actions are gouging wounds in their hearts and in the hearts of others.  But if we know, and we care, we must find a way to tell them.  Others don’t know about God and his will – but their actions are still wreaking havoc in their lives and the lives of others.  We need to share with them the Good News about the mercy of Christ and the power of the Spirit who makes it possible to follow the will of the Father.

“But,” you may say, “They won’t listen, so why bother?” Simple.  Because God says so.  Ezekiel the prophet was called to be a watchman for Israel, as noted by this Sunday’s first reading (Ezek 33:7-9).  It was his responsibility to let people know whenever their actions were leading to a disaster.  If he told them and they did not listen, Ezekiel was off the hook.  He fulfilled his responsibility, and the consequences were on the heads of those who failed to heed the warning.  But if he neglected to warn them out of fear of their disapproval and they ended in disaster, God would hold Ezekiel responsible.

“But,” you may say, “I’m not called to be a prophet.”  Oh yes you are!  In baptism and confirmation you were anointed priest, prophet, and king.  And, if you haven’t noticed, prophets don’t usually win popularity contests.

Of course, if you are prudent and humble and sensitive as you go about this prophetic task, your chances of success will be greater.  The Lord Jesus gives us direction about this in this Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 18:15ff).  First, go privately to the person and treat him or her like a brother or sister; not like your inferior.  If you get nowhere, get another to help you.  If you still run into a stone wall, refer the matter to the Church, which in most cases would mean someone in authority such as a pastor or bishop or apostolic delegate.

The bottom line is that we owe a debt of love to our brothers and sisters (Romans 13:8-10).  And love does its best to stop a person from walking over a cliff.


Acknowledgement

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the Mass readings 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

Please help us in our mission to assist readers to integrate their Catholic faith, family and work. Share this article with your family and friends via email and social media. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors

Print this entry

About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

Author Archive Page

1 Comment

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *