Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Sir 27:30-28:7
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
2) Rom 14:7-9
Gospel: Mt 18:21-35
From his letters, my impression is that St. Paul must have been a tremendous spiritual guide, because if you talked with him about anything in your life, he would help you view it in light of God’s presence and purposes. What gives me this picture is Paul’s way of discussing problems in the early Christian communities. He never just gives directions or tosses off cheap advice. He always brings the conversation around to Christ and his work.
A great example is his hymn of love (1 Cor 13). You know, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal,” and so on, all the way up to “the greatest of these is love.” That rich reflection on God’s love and our call to share in it was part of Paul’s counsel to Christians in Corinth about how to make better use of spiritual gifts in their weekly assembly.
Another example is how Paul straightened out the rivalry that had developed between leaders of the house churches in Corinth. He didn’t threaten to reshuffle leadership positions. No, he treated those ambitious homeowners as men who were able to grasp the most profound truths and gave them an instruction on the power of Jesus’ cross (1 Cor 1-4).
Today’s second reading is yet another case. It’s the central part of Paul’s dealing with a conflict among groups of Christians in Rome. They’re arguing over issues concerning diet and the scheduling of feast days. Paul doesn’t just hand down a couple of rules. He leads the Romans to consider why they should treat others with respect and kindness. They belong to Christ!
You shouldn’t exalt your own opinions, Paul says, even if they’re correct, because when you belong to Christ, the ultimate issue is not whether your opinions are correct but whether you’re relating to others in a way that helps them grow in faith and love.
We can’t chat with Paul as our spiritual guide, but we can take him as an example. We too can learn to examine every situation in our lives in light of God’s presence and God’s purposes. That’s certainly the way we ought to look at everything, since, as Paul says today, by his Son, God has entered the world and laid claim to our lives. We do belong completely to him.
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.