23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Pulpit Plan

Theme : I am my brother’s keeper

1st Reading:     Ezekiel 33:7-9

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 95

2nd Reading : Romans 13:8-10

Gospel : Matthew 18:15-20

 

  • In the time of the Prophet Ezekiel, all towns had watchmen, day and night for protection
  • If the watchman did not blow the trumpet to warn his people of approaching danger, he would be held responsible for what happened to them.
    • So, the words addressed to Ezekiel are heavy indeed –
    • his responsibility to speak truth and to warn sinners is great!
  • Pope St. Gregory the Great, whose feast day we celebrated on Thursday, once said in a sermon, on this passage from the Prophet Ezekiel: “Now a watchman always takes up his position on the heights so that he can see from a distance whatever approaches. Likewise, whoever is appointed watchman to a people should live a life on the heights so that he can help them by taking a wide survey.  These words are hard to utter, for when I speak, it is myself I am reproaching.  I do not preach as I should nor does my life follow the principles I preach so inadequately.”
    • Clearly, the Pope feels the same heavy burden as the Prophet!
  • The Church is also called to speak out!
  • We are the Church – each one of us is called to speak the truth and speak out!
  • But we know that we are not a group of holy people, people without sin – we all feel like the Pope sometimes; we understand his dilemma – of speaking the truth and yet failing to live it ourselves!
  • The task we Christians are given is almost too deep to comprehend:
    • Knowing that we can help people to come to know Jesus or not,
    • that we can help people to enjoy the fullness of live or not,
      • depends on whether we reach out to them or fail to do so – that heavy responsibility gives us the shudders!
    • How can we lead others to Jesus when we so often go astray ourselves?
    • How can we correct others, when we sin too?
      • The other teaching of Jesus about logs and splinters in eyes comes to haunt us!
    • George Preca used to say: ‘Eternity, eternity, what a serious matter!’
    • The Church must stand for the truth; it must call and challenge Christian men and women to a higher ideal or standard!
    • Each one of us – and the Church as a whole – must be prophetic!
      • We are responsible, at least in part, for what happens to others!
    • This is the heavy burden we all bear!
    • And this is what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples as they came down from Caesarea Philippi and made their way towards Jerusalem
    • The first thing he talks to them about on that journey towards the cross is that if you want to belong to this community, there are a few non-negotiables!
      • And these are based on a love and concern for one another!
      • With the priority of winning people back; gaining them for the Kingdom!
    • To undertake any corrective intervention without having these concerns at the centre – is a sure recipe for disaster!
    • Because as St. Paul tells the Romans, “owe no one anything, except to love one another.”
      • That love must – for us Christians – must overcome our fears and doubts!
      • That love does encourage us to reach out, show care and compassion, understanding and concern for others!
      • This love helps us to speak the truth and work for justice!
    • If we are to imitate Jesus’ example, then treating someone as you would a Gentile or a tax collector means being merciful to them.
      • Jesus said – in the verses immediately preceding today’s Gospel reading (18:12-14) – that his Father wanted his disciples to rescue the one sheep that leaves the other 99
      • And in the verses that follow this Gospel reading (18:21-35) – that his disciples must forgive without limit.
    • No one who truly meets Christ will keep him to themselves!
    • Jesus’ promise that he will be in the midst of his followers reminds us of his final words, right at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
    • This presence gives us the courage to speak the truth, to be prophetic and to love generously!
      • To go in search of the lost and to forgive freely!
    • The great Pope Gregory, ended his sermon: “Who am I – what kind of watchman am I?”
      • What better way is there for us to end this sermon today than by asking ourselves those same questions?!
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