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Youth Ministry Resources - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year A: Matthew 18:15-20 - Community guidelines - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Perhaps one of the first impressions of this passage is the rather legalistic overtones. A lengthy process is outlined for dealing with someone, a brother or sister, from the community who has done the wrong thing. The most important perspective we bring to our reading is that this is a Christian community. This is a community formed through love and bound together as children of God, a community that sets itself above secular norms.

So, despite being legalistic it is worth considering how this problem of wrong doing is approached. Firstly, it is quietly done, one on one, and it is not until other measures have failed that it becomes public. What is at stake is the good of the community and the care that community shows for people who make mistakes. It is clear that there is a responsibility of the community for the moral well being of members of the community but this must be handled carefully. Something we saw taken to an extreme during centuries of the Spanish Inquisition.

The language used throughout the passage is relational. We are brother and sister in Christ through our Baptism and so we must go to whatever lengths are required to solve problems, disputes and arguments. Our focus must always be on reconciliation. Jesus gives this directive to all of the disciples not just a chosen few, but all who call themselves followers of Jesus, the Christ, so they (men and women) were given the same power as Peter with "whatever you bind on earth…" Everyone in the community is responsible for dispute resolution so that peace is supreme.

Jesus is giving guidelines to the community, the same community that we hold as our forebears and so we must remember to hold the letter of the law in tandem with the Spirit of the law when we make decisions in our community today. Jesus is promising to be present in the Church whenever we turn to him for guidance and so our hearts are filled with joy as we remember "for where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them."

Sometimes the decisions and concerns for the future of the Church can appear to be overwhelming, especially as we are facing such rapid change. Today's passage is very timely as it reminds us that we are people who have every reason to be filled with hope and joy. Jesus exclaims "if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven." So, go ahead, agree and ask.

Cate Mapstone

Year C: Luke 14:25-33 - The cost of discipleship - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Initially, the language used in this explanation of discipleship is confronting because Jesus asks anyone who will follow him to hate everyone else, to put aside their possessions and to carry their cross. Not an attractive proposition on the face of it. As 1st world English speaking people of the third millennium we also lack insight into 1st century Mediterranean language and culture.

Jesus is speaking very plainly to the great crowds who were following him, many in the hope that he would be the Messiah to overthrow the Roman occupation and most without any insight into what will happen in Jerusalem. Jesus is asking anyone seeking to be his disciple to make a choice. With the language limitations, when you choose one thing (Jesus), than the word 'hate' is the alternative.

The Greek meaning is more about preference but translates into hate. It is at times like this that people who use the Bible for fundamentalist interpretation comes unstuck. Jesus is not literally saying that you must hate your family, it is more about choosing to be a follower of Jesus. Luke is writing to a community that includes people who have lost their family and their family possessions because they chose to be disciples.

There is a cost involved in becoming a disciple and so Jesus uses two parables to illustrate the importance of reflection before taking action. Those who want to follow Jesus must weigh up the costs. Jesus uses some unpleasant pictures of a builder and a king who need to reflect on their planning so as to avoid humiliation. In an "honour and shame" society, humiliation is to be avoided at all costs.

Jesus wants a full hearted response to discipleship. Jesus wants total commitment. In a way it is like the vows we take for marriage "for better or worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health…" Jesus is asking us how much we love him. Will we love God only when we think are prayers are being answered, or as long as we have a comfortable life? Or are we fully committed to God and do we show that by the lives we live, by the choices we make?

Jesus makes it clear that all disciples will make sacrifices if we are to follow Jesus through to the end, even if this means the sacrifice of all our possessions. This is not the first time that Jesus is teaching us about detachment to possessions, it is a recurrent theme across the Christian Scriptures. It is up to each of us to reflect on where we place our focus.

Cate Mapstone

Youth Ministry Resources 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Youth Ministry Resources 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time