Bishop Donal McKeown is Bishop of Derry. This homily was delivered in Saint Eugene`s Cathedral, Derry, on September 6, 2020, for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Today we hear Jesus speaking about the community – and using the same word that he used recently that was then translated as ‘Church’. Community is not just part of the context within faith that can be handed on. Community is part of the content of what Jesus is proposing. That is why he promises that he will be present when people gather in his name. The Body of Christ is present where people belong together in Jesus. As St Paul says in our second reading a debt of mutual love sums up all the commandments – and builds up community. A lot of us may live in semi-detached houses or semi-detached relationships. That option does not exist for his followers. What some of the lessons that we might learn from today’s readings?
Firstly, Jesus asks his disciples to do what he does – he speaks out against wrongdoing. Christianity is unwelcome in some quarters because it says that there is right and wrong. That does not mean that Jesus condemns people as evil. But he does say that there are destructive actions that do not reflect the love of God and of neighbor. Jesus has given us the standards by which to evaluate actions, without damning people. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles were killed for telling powerful people where the system which suited the strong was heartless and without grace. And he reserved most of his anger, not for the little people whose lives were less than perfect but for those who professed to love God and appeared to despise their neighbor. Unless reprimand comes with love of our neighbor, it is not imbued with grace. Correcting someone is meant to help them, not to nourish my spiritual ego.