The Son of Man is appointed as guardian of Israel.
Song of praise to God, our salvation.
The Law is summarized in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus teaches his disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s Gospel reading is taken from a chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, which is sometimes called the “discourse on the Church” or the “church order” discourse. In this part of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks more directly about matters of Church discipline and order. In today’s reading we find one of only three instances in which Jesus uses the word church in Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew’s record of Jesus’ teaching, we can hear echoes of the kinds of issues faced by the early Christian community.
In the first part of the “discourse on the Church” (Matthew 18:1-14), Matthew addresses the Christian community’s concerns about rank. Jesus responds to the disciples’ question about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus indicates that those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven must be like children, and he cautions those leaders who might lead these “little ones” astray. He also responds with the parable of the lost sheep, indicating how God will seek out and bring back those “little ones” who have strayed.
In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus addresses a common occurrence in the Christian community: a dispute between two members of the Church. Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters fairly. The victim should privately address the offender and attempt to resolve the dispute without outside involvement. If that fails, then the victim should bring two or three witnesses and confront the offender again. If the dispute is still unresolved, the matter should be brought to the attention of the entire community. If the offender refuses to adhere to the reparations prescribed by the community, then Jesus suggests that the offender may be expelled from the Church.
Jesus does not discourage disagreement within the community of the Church; he acknowledges the reality of conflict and error and offers his disciples a means for addressing such matters. It is in the conclusion to this teaching that the message of hope is found: Jesus is present with the community and will guide the community in its relations. If decisions are taken in prayer, then the community can be assured of God’s assistance.