September 10, 2023; Matthew 18:15-20; 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel Jesus says that what we bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and what we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. This is Jesus’ way of telling us that God has given us real authority to make decisions in our lives, and the decisions we make heaven will not overrule. The choices that you and I make will shape our lives and the lives of others. Moreover, Jesus tells us that there are two types of decisions, binding and loosing. We have the ability to bind or tighten our expectations and our relationships. We also have the power to loose or relax them. And knowing how to do this, and when, is what will make life successful.
Parents know this dynamic. They understand that there must be expectations or rules to which their children are bound so that they will learn such values as hard work, follow-through, generosity, and the importance of serving others. Without such guidelines, young people can easily fail. Yet parents also know that there are times when they need to loose their involvement in their children’s lives and make space for them to make their own decisions. It is only with such freedom that children will be able to grow into responsible adults. The gospel today asks parents to evaluate the balance in their lives between binding and loosing, between holding on and letting go.
Married couples and others in committed relationships must bind and loose. Over time, people and circumstances change, and those in relationships must be able to able to loose their expectations of what was in order to address new realities. Couples must discover in new ways to spend time with each other and different arrangements of how the responsibilities of a shared life can be divided. Yet the same couples must also be willing to bind themselves ever more deeply to the things that do not change: to communication, respect, and love. The gospel today invites those in committed relationships to examine the balance between the flexibility to adapt to new realities and the commitment to retain what is essential.
Those of us who are dealing with advancing years must also bind and loose. We must loose and let go of things that are no longer available to us: physical agility, unlimited dreams, the time to start over again. But, even as we let go of what is no longer possible, we must bind ourselves more deeply to what remains: our faith, the people who love us, and the promise of eternal life.
The art of living is to know what to bind and what to loose and when to do it. But the good news is that if God has given us these abilities, God will also help us to use them. So today let us ask God to help us find the balance between binding and loosing, so that heaven will be pleased with the life decisions that we make.