23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
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?!