We are all familiar with the above because it is used to underline the teaching authority of the Institutional church ad nausea. But, Jesus follows this statement directly with these statements:
19 Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
How are we to take these following statements, as some sort of Universal Law of Religious Chaos? That when ever two of us get together and pray for something on which we agree, that Jesus and His Father will grant their blessing?
Well, their does seem to be an implied caveat, the two or the many, have to be gathered in Jesus's name and Jesus certainly didn't condone every thing. He gave us two great commandments which transcended the individual stipulations of Mosaic law. Love the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul and mind, and Love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, what we pray for in His name, is to be prayed for in love, for love, and with love.
The truth is we can spend our entire lives trying to come to grips with these two laws, so it's no wonder as time went on we concocted reams of individual rules to make things less open ended and very much more black and white. Historically we took Jesus's stage five thinking and encoded it into man's stage two rules.
Jesus was well aware of this kind of thinking. Just previous to the above quoted verses Jesus is asked by a disciple, "who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" This is a perfect example of stage two spiritual thinking. It's hierarchical. Jesus pulls a child to Him and says these words:
3"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
6 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
7Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!
It seems to me that we, the entirety of the People of God, Jesus's Church on Earth, should take heed of the very next statements of Jesus:
8 If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire.
9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna.
10"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
Our self proclaimed eyes and hands and feet, our institutional structure and it's clergy, have truly sinned. It is better, Jesus says, to be maimed, crippled and half blind, than to lead the flock, especially it's children, into sin.
Perhaps it would be better for Catholicism if our hierarchy accepted they would be better off if their notion of clerical privilege was reduced--if they cut off a hand and a leg and poked out an eye, metaphorically speaking, rather than ever again put a millstone around their necks by thinking their concept of Church and their place in it was more important than the little ones.
Until that happens, and it maybe never, I will remember that two or more of us gathered in His name will be blessed, and our prayers answered.