23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Recorded at the Australian Catholic Radio Online, pls click:
The gathering of the Israelites in the Old Testament is called Qahal Yahweh; in the New Testament this was translated into ekklesia, a Greek term which means “church”. The gospel of St. Matthew has always been called “the gospel of the Church” wherein most of the parables pertain to the essence of the Church.
In the gospel this Sunday, we have 1) a glimpse on the role of the primitive Church in terms of fraternal correction; 2) it tells us about the authority and responsibility bestowed on the Church; and 3) the power of fellowship and prayer of its members.
The primitive Christian Church certainly has evolved from its humble Jewish beginnings to one of the most powerful institutions in human history. Nonetheless, in all its wealth, glory and grandeur its essence remains the same: as the community of the disciples of Jesus Christ. And because it is composed of sinful members like us, it continues to struggle to transcend herself to rise above human limitations and weaknesses through the mercy of God.
The once powerful European presence of the Church is now represented by massive but empty cathedrals in Europe; the once sprawling huge seminaries are now empty if not abandoned. Dioceses most especially in the first world countries do not have vocation to the priesthood and their presbyteriums are old and dying. Even in the Christian countries, the attendance in Sunday liturgies is alarmingly low. On the other hand, there is a ray of hope in Africa and Asia where the Church is experiencing a “renaissance”, a rebirth among the poorest of the poor. Seminaries and convents in these very poor countries are thriving and they are exporting priests and religious to Europe and other parts of the world. During the medieval times, there were only white missionaries bringing the faith to Africa and Asia; this time Africans and Asians are the missionaries giving back the favor.
So where do we find ourselves in this complex reality of the Church? Let us evaluate the family as the domestic church: How do we witness our faith inside our homes? Do we pray as a family in the same way that we eat together? Let us see how we participate in the local church which is our diocese and our parish. Do we ever participate in the programs of our parish? Whenever we gather as a parish community, we become the One Body of Jesus Christ even if we do not know each other’s name. The ekklesia in the gospel today becomes alive when the community is 1) forgiven and forgiving 2) nourished through the care of our faithful and dedicated shepherds and 3) strengthened by each other’s prayer and empowered as God’s People.
There are those who believe that their faith is between them and God; it is partially true. But we need to celebrate that faith with the Christian community because our relationship with God has an ecclesial dimension and this is where fellowship becomes imperative. We have to gather together as a Church because it is where we form a communion with each other and we become catalysts of change in the world we live in. When we do this, the Church becomes alive once again and is relevant to the present time.