Matthew 18: 10–20
The first day of the Church’s existence on earth has passed. Yesterday the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles communicating to them all the fullness of the Divine gifts. The holidays are now over and the Apostles’ fast will begin in a week. Now is the time for patiently bearing the seed and yielding the spiritual fruit, which “is found in all that is good and right and true”. Today, on the feast of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God gives us first instructions on how to live in the Church, the community of the faithful, gathered, redeemed and sanctified by God.
First, “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones”. Who are these “little ones”? What does the Lord say about them? He says that “in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven”. He also says that He came to earth “to save the lost”. And finally He says that if one of His sheep is lost, He leaves all the rest of the herd to go in search of it, and finding it, “rejoices over it more than over” all the others. It is clear that for the Lord there are no “little ones”, and He wants us to remember this too.
But what if our brother does evil? The Lord answers, “If your brother sins against you; go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained that one”. That is, honestly and directly tell him in private first, sparing his pride and believing that he did not act out of evil, but out of ignorance. Wise people advise starting such conversations with words like, “Forgive me, brother, but I am confused by so and so”. If he does not admit his guilt, then “take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses”. Perhaps the candid words of these unbiased people will be of more weight for him. If he still “refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church”, i. e. to the entire assembly of the community, or a person authorized to speak and make decisions on its behalf, relying on the word of God and the laws of the Universal Church. “And if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”. Unfortunately, the common practice is often quite the opposite. We say nothing to the offender, so as not to get involved. Then we find “one or two others” and indulge in judging and resentment. And finally, we will secretly report him to the authorities. The Lord teaches not to be afraid to expose the truth in the offender’s face, and to find the strength to cut any ties with him if he persists, so as not to be a participant in other people’s sins.
The Lord also speaks about great benefits of being together, as a single church. He says, “…Truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them “. Whether through cunning or by thoughtlessness, some try to turn these words against the Church. But what does “in the name of Christ” mean? It means reverently remembering everything that He taught. He came not for the world to be divided into groups of two or three, but so that there would be “one flock and one Shepherd” (John 10:16).
It is said that everything that we ask will be done for us. But it is also said that before asking we should “…try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord” “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts”.
Archpriest Vyacheslav Reznikov, Full Circle of Sermons
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds