September 4, 2011

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins

You’re My Brother and You’re My Sister

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

I thought it would subside after I came into the Catholic Church. But it continues to burn deep in my soul. It’s like fire shut up in my bones and I can’t seem to stay quiet about it – the unity of the faith – the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. I try to write these reflections with all of my brothers and sisters in mind. It is my effort to write in a way that is Catholic 101 for my non-catholic readers and Protestant 101 for my Catholic readers. What we have in common is greater than what divides us.

As I write this reflection I am in tears as I listen to Russ Taff singing:

You’re my brother you’re my sister,
so take me by the hand.
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us; if we’re walkin’ side by side.
As long as there is love,
We will stand.

“We Will Stand” By Russ Taff

The Apostle John, according to tradition, lived to the ripe old age of 94 and was buried on the mountain in Ephesus. The beloved disciple grew weak in his later years. St Jerome relates that the Apostle was carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples. The only message the great Apostle of brotherly love gave was: “My dear children, love one another.” (www.ewtn.com/library/mary/johnevan.htm)

Some in the Ephesian Church complained about this single and predictable message from the Apostle John. When John was asked why his message was always the same he replied, “Because it is the precept of the Lord, and if you comply with it, you do enough.”

Yes, my friend it is enough. St. Peter explains, “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) “They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another,” says our Lord. There is no greater love than to reach out to one another; no greater love than to stand side by side and lay down our life for another. In the Church there is one, only one debt we owe: Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (Ro. 13:8) This charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit; so faith, hope, love abide, these there; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)

It is the conviction of Pope Benedict XVI to pray for the full and visible unity of the Church. Such is the gift of the Holy Spirit; let us earnestly desire this gift. It is revealed in the prayer of Jesus in John 17 when he prays, “That they (you and me) may be one as you and I are one. Do you invite anyone from your Parish family to eat at your table? Does it matter to you when someone you’re used to seeing at the Mass at which you pray is missing from their familiar spot? Did you walk across the Church to see someone who usually walks in but today is nursing a leg in a cast? Am I my brother’s keeper?

I remember one time my mother expressing great concern when our Pentecostal church decided not to have Sunday evening church one week; only one week mind you. She stood and wept tears as she passionately recalled how a certain minister before he knew the Lord came into a Pentecostal church like ours and found the Lord. Two ladies were keeping the little church open, and this man wandered in soaked in sin and other things, and met the love of his life – Jesus Christ, and him crucified. What’s that again? – If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

Many believe that there is power in numbers; today we learn there is power in reconciliation. It is in the unity of prayer and calling on the Lord together wherein the power of grace and forgiveness is released. It is no small thing to wrestle with the need to see the Parish become welcoming, embracing one another in the gift of friendship – the kind of friendship Jesus describes as a love that is so profound, so prayerful, so powerful – that one would lay down his life for his friend.

Today’s gospel reminds us how we are truly connected to each other. We hear of the great effort to maintain the unity of the faith in the bonds of peace. St. Paul describes the Church, this temple not made with hands as united with Christ and the whole body is joined and knit together and nourished by what each joint supplies. And then as each part is working properly, the body (the Church) grows and builds itself in love. (see Ephesians 4:11-16)

O the healing friendship that Jesus brings us in the gift of himself. In this friendship we learn how to have our relationships and friendships healed. As we come to this Table we receive this life giving bread; this saving cup. If we have any need to be reconciled to one another, let us first be reconciled to each other, and then come to this Table as restored brothers and sisters. Jesus speaks to each one of us today and says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

You’re my brother you’re my sister,
so take me by the hand.
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us; if we’re walkin’ side by side.
As long as there is love,
We will stand.

Amen.

Readings for this Sunday

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