Correction may be needed...

εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens (ἀκούσῃ, akouse) to you,
you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen (ἀκούσῃ, akouse),
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
Matthew 18:15-17
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary Year A

θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

The Gospel pericope proclaimed this Sunday (as well as a few from previous Sundays) forms part of what scholars term Jesus’ address on Church order. Jesus knew well the difficulties His Church would face. They would come not only from without but also from within. Even during His Public Ministry, Jesus had to pull the 12 aside on numerous occasions and referee arguments among them concerning human concerns such as power, prestige and one’s place in the community. Many times the difficulties ‘in getting along’ start with seemingly petty issues but quickly escalate into all out battle between and among people, often involving people that we love very much.

Like so many aspects of Kingdom living, Jesus’ approach to matters human is marked by a quality of difference or “being set apart.” For example, when He teaches the disciples about the constitutive elements of greatness in the Kingdom, Jesus refers to greatness among the Gentiles. He goes onto to say to His disciples that it cannot be that way with you. In other words, living the Kingdom requires a different approach to the things of this world. Anyone can serve the needs of others and many people who are not Christian do a great job of tending to the needs of people in peril. So what does it mean to serve the needs of others in the Name of Jesus Christ? Many people are kind, loving and hospitable. So what does it mean to be kind, loving and hospitable in the Name of Jesus Christ? I am not advocating a false dichotomy here but often within Christian circles, we go about tackling the problems of life without ever seeking the wisdom of the Gospel and docility to the Holy Spirit. Sure we may open a gathering or a meeting with a perfunctory prayer thinking that such an action will guarantee Kingdom results. Does it?

This Sunday’s Word not only invites but commands us to examine how we deal with the common difficulties of conflict between 2 or more persons. Simply, Jesus pronounces a singular action to address conflict: LISTEN. Courtesy of a number of influences in culture, the American use of English notes a difference between the ‘act of hearing’ and the ‘act of listening.’ Hearing is often understood as a passive operation that may or may not involve attention, focus or consciousness on the part of the hearer. Listening is often understood as an active operation involving not only attention, focus and consciousness but also a sense of ‘being present to the person and the moment with the totality of one’s being.’ In this distinction, listening requires far more work and energy than hearing. It is not uncommon when 2 (or more) people are trying to iron out their differences for one of the persons to say, “Darling, you’re not listening to me!” only for the other to retort, “Sweetheart, I hear every word you are saying.”

The English translations of the Hebrew and Greek verbs use “to hear” and “to listen” interchangeably and as synonyms. When the Word of God commands one “to hear,” it is understood in the American English sense of “to listen.” This is an important point about the biblical verbs because some attempt to soft-pedal the challenge of Jesus’ Word. For example, the Psalm for this Sunday, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts,” uses the verb “to hear” in the English translation. In this example and in others like it in the Scriptures, “to hear” means “to listen.” But there is another reason that underscores the proper meaning of “to listen.”

Throughout the pages of the New Testament, building on the Covenant experience of the Old Testament, the Greek verb ἀκούω (akouo) conveys the sense of attention, focus, consciousness and presence to the other. ἀκούω (akouo) also expresses the act of listening to the Word of God in the midst of the event. What this means is crucial for Christian living as it brings that element of “difference” to bear on the situation. Why the Christian is called “to listen” to the other person or persons - AND - fundamentally to listen to God, is that in the exchange of person-to-person, the Word of God can break into the situation. Imagine Divine Wisdom invading our arguments and perhaps even spoken by one who has managed to ‘press our buttons’ at the moment. Shocking, yes - and it makes so much sense when we consider this in the context of Christian life.

By virtue of Baptism, we are constituted priest, prophet and king. Baptism into the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus enables us to offer sacrifice to God our Father (priest), to speak on behalf of God our Father (prophet) and to have power over sin (king). The listening that Jesus prescribes this Sunday for the ailments of relational living go beyond the necessary attentiveness to the moment and the person. Listening, as far as Jesus is concerned, is the consciousness of the Word flooding the spaces of human living with Divine Wisdom, Divine Life and Divine Love. That difference when brought to situations that tug at our heart and cause queasy stomachs is truly a Gift that brings good order to one’s life, others’ lives, our world and our Church.

O God, by Whom we are redeemed
and receive adoption, look graciously
upon Your beloved sons and daughters,
that those who believe in Christ
may receive true freedom
and an everlasting inheritance.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen