Gospel Reflection Sep 6 – Fr. Morris
Sunday, September 6
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 18: 15-20
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”
Our Gospel this Sunday reminds us of the importance of our communal Christian life. The particular sneakiness of COVID-19 is that what are usually the strengths of our Christian faith– congregational worship, praising God through music, receiving physical Sacraments, person-to-person outreach and evangelization—becomes a weakness that the virus can utilize to spread to the most vulnerable and sick among us.
I do not envy the Bishops of all the various nations around the world. They have to make prudential local decisions that balance the threat of spreading the virus to those individuals wherein it is highly lethal, against the threat of losing contact with our communal Christian faith. Like any prudential decision, it is unlikely to be the one best decision in the eyes of all people.
But thankfully, this pandemic has occurred at a time when modern technology and telecommunications allows those who are truly at the most risk to participate in the community of the parish through live streams, video meetings, and safe environments carefully-designed with modern medicine’s insights. A strong argument can be made that Catholicism is the intellectual progenitor to the scientific methodology that gave rise to “Western” technology and healthcare. Since Catholics believe in Faith AND Reason, we are always happy to utilize technology to spread the Gospel and to listen to the insights that science and other reasoned methodologies yield about aspects of God’s physical universe. (We also do not hesitate to call science and reason to account when they stray out of their proper fields and start trafficking in philosophy and theology!)
For those of our parishioners who are in strict quarantine in assisted living facilities, in self-imposed quarantine at home, or who are exercising an abundance of caution for the sake of a vulnerable loved one—know that you are gathered with us when you gather in the name of Jesus Christ. ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ You are attending at Mass not just virtually through the mediation of electronic technology, but spiritually through your unity of intention with other congregants and clergy. Unified in a common desire and intention for prayer and worship—isn’t our God smart enough to understand that, to recognize when we are truly impeded from attending Mass through no fault of our own, and to read our naked hearts and our true intentions? If our 5-year-olds can understand that Zoom or Facetime allows you to talk to people instantly across the globe, how much more does our God understand the fungibility of time and space when it comes to our prayers?
I will be the first to say it is NOT the same thing to participate in a televised Mass versus attending in person, but it IS better than the alternative—which is nothing. Something is always better than nothing, and a Mass attended virtually is better than the Mass attended not at all!
-Fr. Matthew Morris