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Church remains ‘strong as a rock’

Based on the Gospel of Matthew 16:13-20

Reaching out with love, compassion, forgiveness and prayer.

Jesus had spoken about the shepherd who left his flock of sheep to go after one of them that wandered away. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus continues instructing the apostles and preparing them to govern his church community as the end of his earthly mission draws near.

Just as the good shepherd was determined to seek out the sheep that strayed from the flock, Jesus is emphasizing that the apostles should seek out those who have strayed from the church and bring them back into the fold.

Jesus also enjoins us, particularly the bishops as successors to the apostles and the priests as pastoral shepherds of their parishes, to seek out those who have wandered from the church. Without being judgmental, condemning or self righteous, we are, in kindness, to give everyone the attention they need, to correct those people whose actions have separated them from God and the church, and to do everything possible to reconcile them with God, the church and others.

Jesus also speaks of prayer. First, Jesus says, “When two or three of you meet together in my name, then I will be there with you.” Secondly, Jesus says, “If two of you agree to pray for anything, then my Father will answer your prayers.” Such group or shared prayer, whether with our family or parish community, is powerful because God the Father will answer prayer offered by many people when they pray for the same intention. With Jesus’ help God the Father wants us to love, to help, to serve each other and to pray together for each other.

“Lord, hear our prayer.” He does, and he always answers with what is best for us.

To sum it up: Jesus calls us to continue his redeeming mission – unity within the church community (the Body of Christ) with love, prayer, and by reconciliation and forgiveness between people and God and between people themselves.

Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39).