Ezechiel 33: 7-9 – Romans 13: 8-10 – Matthew 18: 15-20
Over the past months during which we have been struggling with the coronavirus, we have often heard from various sources that “we are in this together.” We may have thought that this encouragement was politically or governmentally or commercially based in some fashion. The reality is, however, that this way of thinking has its roots in Christian tradition or, better, in Judeo-Christian tradition. God’s communication with us, in the words of Scripture we heard today, brings this out.
Ezechiel, the Old Testament prophet, was told to be a watchman over others. He was to speak out and correct others or he would fail in his responsibility. Saint Paul summarizes all of the admonitions he had just give on about how to be a follower of Christ with the counsel to love our neighbor, to respect all and everyone who is a part of our lives.
Recognizing that we are in this “together,” in life itself “together”is central to the Gospel message we heard today, and central to being followers of Christ. It is what is essential to denial of self and embracing the cross. Why is this so? It is the fundamental way that we show our understanding that we live in a relationship with God and not as individuals alone, one-on-one. It is a relationship as a people, as a community of believers. We rely on one another. We are, as we profess in the Apostles’ Creed, a “Communion of Saints” – persons striving together for holiness. This is how we are to understanding the revelation of God’s love for us as well as understanding how best we are to live out the effect of that love.
When we fail to live out this relationship, this commitment of our Faith, it is in the dynamic of the community of believers, the Church, that healing and reconciliation take place. If such a relationship cannot be achieved with one another, then it cannot be expected that it will truly happen with God.
In many ways this may seem to go against that so-called “individualism” we often cherish. But if we truly understand how our God, our loving Creator and Source of life, is revealed and is to be known and loved, or how a true relationship with God, with all of the benefits it has for us, is to be experienced, we will realize that it is in the context of others, of the community of believers that we are. We come to know and appreciate God, not alone, but with others. It takes others, gathered together, living and expressing Faith, to make the full depth and full richness of God known to us. No one of us reveals the totality of the love of our God. Thus, in this body of believers that we are, this Church that we are, that we have the opportunity to experience our God.
In and through the community of believers, the Church, the presence and the love of our God is revealed to us. In and through the community of believers, the Church, we encounter, we are touched, we are nourished by our God. In and through the community of believers, the Church, with its strengths and with its weaknesses, in our common human condition as well as our Faith, that God is known.
As Church we are to be the ideal of how the world as a whole is to live. As a community of believers we are to be an example to one another and to the world. It is as the community of Faith-filled persons, joined together, and united as one, as we so often pray, that we reveal to the world a truly good and gracious God.