In the second reading for this coming Sunday at Mass at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, St. Paul refers to the Ten Commandments, which begin with that statement, ‘It is not with your fathers that I cut this Social Contract, but with you, each of you, who stand here, this day…” Remember, “I am God your Mighty Judge who rescued you, from the land of oppression and the house of menial labor.” Truly to remember is to remember what it was like to be there. That is why the Jewish Seder and the liturgy of the Eucharist dwells on the suffering of those who are present at the suffering and the rescue. We die with Jesus in the Passion of the Mass and we rise with him, as a community, in the Mass.
If we truly remember, what it was like to feel oppression, when we see others suffering it brings back bad memories. We spring to action and work to end that suffering. When we do this as a community, we love; we create community where all feel the urge to help one another. This creates a vibrant community under the One, True, God.
The Gospel reading continues the theme. It discusses what to do when a brother errs. St. Matthew mentions the Jewish rule of having two or three witnesses. It also mentions “The Church,” which did not exist for several more years. The passage ends with the call to community. One book relates this story:
A couple arrived early for Mass. The woman white, the man African-American. Another person present in the sanctuary was a burly white man wearing a flannel shirt, blue jeans, and cowboy boots who looked at them.
Resenting the look they had become accustomed to, they went over to correct him. They started, ‘Howdy. We were just noticing the look you were giving us.” The man responded, ‘I am sorry, I’m really not all that religious. I really didn’t see you either. You see, my car just broke down, again, and I am in here crying and asking God why, he is doing this to me, again.”
The woman asked, “What is the car doing, or not doing?”
The man retorted in disgust, “It dies at intersections and does not start again.”
The woman pointed out, “I’m a mechanic. Let me go look.”
The three went, first to her car, where she grabbed tools, and returned to his car. We followed Salvador as he watched the unfolding events.
The woman changed the negative battery terminal and poured some Pepsi on the positive terminal. The man in the cowboy boots tried starting the car. It started like new.
The woman informed him, “Bad terminal with some corrosion,” and entered the church.
Salvador related, “So it is to be with you. Be willing to confront, but confront with love. Things are not always, as they seem. If the man were a racist you would take this case to the priest, to the Bishop and, if necessary, to the Pope.”
Salvador commanded, “Be prepared when people confront you. Community is for growth and growth sometimes comes with pain. Sometimes, the shoe falls on the other foot. We are sometimes the people at fault. Be ready.”
That is what all three readings for this Sunday are about, being ready. That means we are, each of us, responsible for the creation of community. That is a community of people rescued from over there to over here. That is wherever over there is, and wherever over here is. We need to act when we see others suffering. We need to confront, but we need to confront when we see perceived wrong, because we are all human beings and therefore we all have the course in that we will all at some point in our lives see wrongly.