FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Ezekiel 33:7-9 | Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 | Romans 13:8-10 | Matthew 18:15-20
The Scriptures for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time reminds us to speak out against sin and evil, seek the good and well-being of another person, and reconcile an erring member and bring him or her back into Church fellowship.
Winston Moseley died several years ago. Few people would recognize his name. The 81-year-old man spent the last 52 years of his life in prison. In 1964, Moseley stalked, raped and stabbed to death 28-year-old Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in a brutal, gruesome killing outside of her apartment building in Queens, New York City. What got people’s attention was the fact that there were 38 witnesses who watched Kitty’s murder, and no one did anything to help her even though she was screaming, “Help me!” It was only after she was dead that anyone bothered to call the police. One of the witnesses later told law enforcement authorities, “I didn’t want to get involved” — words that would later become emblematic of bystander apathy and indifference. The words of genius Albert Einstein ring true, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
In the major walled cities of the ancient near east, especially in a time of war, the watchman was the one who kept watch, who was the look-out for the enemy's approach. Having spotted the enemy army approaching, he could then warn the military and the citizens and they would not be overcome. They would be prepared. In today’s first reading, the prophet Ezekiel receives his commission from the Lord God to be the watchman over Israel. The Babylonian army is about to destroy Jerusalem. Even though it may be too late, Ezekiel is moved to once again warn the wicked who brought on the destruction as a punishment from the Lord. His job description: “When you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.” He bears the responsibility of warning the people of the consequences of their wicked ways. It was not acceptable for Ezekiel to remain silent regarding his peoples’ transgressions, because his inaction would have compromised their future. To ignore evil is to encourage it, and to keep quiet about it is to help promote it.
During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, lord protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland during the republican Commonwealth (1653–58), sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the tolling of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier's fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell's heart was touched and he said, "Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!"
In our second reading, the apostle Paul is reflecting on the place of the law (the Torah) in Christian life. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, and Christians are charged to “love” as this is the perfect example of living a life of faithfulness. He cites a commandment that sums up all the commandments, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for the one who loves another fulfills the law.” Then he lists the commandments related to neighbor, and summarizes them, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Taken positively, this means that love, above all, seeks the good and well-being of another person. This is perhaps the clearest and simplest expressions of what Christian love is all about.
Third grader Cherry Ann said to her Math teacher,” Miss Dominguez, I don’t want to scare you, but my mom said, If my grades don’t improve, someone’s going to get a spanking!”
Correction and admonition of fellow community members is the duty of every committed believer. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us to be patiently helpful to our brothers and sisters who sin against us. We are to go to work it out as opposed to trashing the offender before everyone else. There are three steps: If a member of the body needs correction, first you can approach him privately. Jesus wants issues resolved in a way that both parties respect and preserve the dignity of each other. If this does not work, then you are charged to bring witnesses. The voice of two or three may bring more weight and help the parties to realize that there is a better way forward. If the person in the wrong, does not listen, then the entire Church is to be involved in trying to set the brother or sister who sinned on the right path. But again there must be respect and concern. Only after all efforts at reconciliation has failed, should we say we had done the best we can and the incorrigible person is to be treated as an outsider and basically kicked out from the Church. This may sound harsh but treating our erring brother or sister as an outcast may help him or her see the error and bring about conversion, much like the Prodigal Son came to his senses and sought forgiveness when he realized the wrong he had chosen. The reason for the necessity of such correction lies in maintaining the unity of the community, because in that unity God’s will is revealed and Jesus’s presence is embodied.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum