23rd Sunday in Ordinary time


Ezekiel 33:7-9
Romans 13:8-10
Matthew 18:15-20


Self-professed prophets have recently been a subject of much debate amongst members of my family. I have been told of several YouTubers whose burgeoning posts and videos have attracted massive followings, especially in the US. I took this with a grain of salt until I read that one (who shall remain nameless), has claimed that Donald Trump is in fact the “second coming” of Jesus and that “God is with him.” Without wishing to be divisive, I would like to point out that whatever side of politics we choose, the world has become a frightening place when so many follow false prophets with religious fervour rather than meditating upon the Word of God.

‘What does the world think?’ ‘What would my friends do?’ ‘Who might I offend if I am just myself?’ These questions plague society because everyone seeks an individual identity whilst simultaneously conforming to ever-narrowing boundaries of ‘normality.’ It strikes me that Matthew’s Gospel is directed at a community seeking to understand the true path, a discernment process of rules, boundaries, and expectations for a company of believers. The approval of the community was integral to their formation, as early Christians asked themselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Today’s Gospel suggests that someone on the ‘wrong’ path could either amend their ways or risk isolation from the group.

We still have an obligation to guide our brothers and sisters back to the community when they ‘stray’ – didn’t Jesus search out the lost sheep to bring them home? Yet, who are we as individuals, to decide what the right path is? If God speaks in my heart, is it my role to incite and rouse others, especially when my words may be divisive and judgemental? If, through grace, I am blessed with the belief that I am on the right path, then surely my role is to live that faith in my thoughts, my words and my actions within and with the blessing of my community. However, without the space to challenge (and be challenged) by our differences, we cannot grow. We should spend time in communion with each other and agree to disagree but listen for the voice of God speaking in our hearts – a voice that may not blare from a loudspeaker but is heard in the gentle breeze. Jesus teaches wherever two or three are gathered; he is there. Let’s find him in each other today.

Angela Marquis works for the Hobart Passionists at St Joseph’s in Tasmania, with WATAC (Women and the Australian Church), and as a primary school chaplain.