Wednesday, August 12, 2015

In the Midst of Them

The LORD then said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you shall not cross over.” So there, in the land of Moab, Moses, the servant of the LORD, died as the LORD had said; and he was buried in the ravine opposite Beth-peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the place of his burial.  Deuteronomy 34:4-6

“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.”  Matthew 18:19-20

Chapter 58: On the Manner of Receiving Sisters
When she is to be received she promises before all in the oratory stability, fidelity to monastic life and obedience…Then let her place it with her own hand upon the altar; and when she has placed it there, let the novice at once intone this verse: "Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live: and let me not be confounded in my hope" (Ps. 119:116). 

What does it say?
Passing from the duty of Christian disciples toward those who have strayed from their number, the discourse now turns to how they are to deal with one who sins and yet remains within the community. First there is to be private correction; if this is unsuccessful, further correction before two or three witnesses; if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the assembled community (the church), and if the sinner refuses to attend to the correction of the church, he is to be expelled. The church’s judgment will be ratified in heaven, i.e., by God.

What does it mean?
As a community, we have a responsibility to lead people to accept the change in their lives.  If we fail to bring them the message of repentance and change, then we are guilty of another kind of sin – one of neglect or omission.

Why does it matter?
When we pray in community, Jesus is in our midst.  Jesus is in the midst of any gathering of his disciples, however small.  You do not need a mega-church.  You do not need a papal audience.  You do not need a bishop.  All we need is two or three gathered in His name.

When a sister or brother joins a monastic community, they divest everything that they have.  Even the clothes on her or his back are replaced by the clothes of the community.  Money and property are given to the poor or to the community. In their place are vows of stability, fidelity and obedience to the abbess. Nothing gets in the way of their relationship with the Lord and each other. The members are there to help each other at all times.

We are asked to do no less even if we live in the community of laity.  When we give into temptation, our community tries to bring us back into the right relationship with the Lord and with the world.  They will not give up on us.  Once.  Twice.  Even three times they will work to get us to change.  Likewise, we also must reach out to others and help them stay or return from whatever tries to pull them away. 

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