23A 2014 BOYNES
Last week, St. Paul gave us a real challenge when he called us to offer ourselves as a "living sacrifice." Those words sort of tied all three readings together for us.
Well, this week he does it again! Paul says we are to "owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another." Those words are challenging, and they relate very clearly to the other two readings today as well.
In God's Kingdom, love is an obligation - something we owe to one another. That's not how the world thinks...but we don't take our lead from the world around us; we take it from The Lord above us.
So what does it mean to love another person? Many things. But one thing for sure is that we want what is best for them. As believers, we know the best thing is Heaven, right? Eternal and perfect union with God. So if we love each other, we should try to help each other get to Heaven!
That's a big part of what it means to be Church - to lead each other home to the Father. I think a lot of people miss that, but it really is what we're supposed to be about: to support one another, teach one another, and sometimes to correct one another.
That takes us to the other two readings for today.
Ezekiel was called to be a prophet. That means he was to speak God's word in his time and place. Our first reading shows us that sometimes God's word is a word of correction, a word of warning. "You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything you shall warn them for me." God expects him to look out for his neighbors - to call them back to the Covenant, which is their salvation.
Not only does God expect this of Ezekiel, but He warns that there will be consequences if he does not: "If you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible."
Let's be clear about what God is saying here: Ezekiel is not responsible for the actions of others, but for his own actions toward them. Love requires him to warn the wicked about their ways.
How does all this apply to us? It applies to us because we too are called to be prophets. Our Baptism gives us a share in the ministry of Christ as priest, prophet and king.
When we think about being a prophet, we might think it means speaking God's word out in the world - which is absolutely correct. We need to be that voice that speaks for the poor and vulnerable, that speaks for human dignity and human life. But in our Gospel today Jesus reminds us that we also need to speak His word within our Church - out of love for each other.
He gives us a certain way of doing it, too. First, we go to a person directly when there is a problem, instead of talking about it with others. Maybe we don't know the whole story? Maybe we misunderstood what was really said or done? If we talk about it with others first, then we damage a person's reputation - which is a grave sin:
the Catechism relates it to the commandment, "You shall not kill," because a person's reputations is so important to their ability to enjoy life, or to earn a living. Gossip is one of those sins that's so easy to fall into, but so harmful to our neighbors.
So, what if we go to our brother/sister privately, and we find out we are right - that they are endangering their salvation? Hopefully we can help them change their ways. If not, at least we tried, right? That's all Ezekiel was expected to do.
Not quite. Jesus takes it up another level: we are to get help from one or two others, He says, to make sure that it's not just our opinion. Should that fail, bring in the Church: Jesus wants the sinner to have every chance to be reconciled - to God, and to the community.
Sounds difficult, doesn't it? Well, it is...but its worth it! Every soul is precious.
"Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another."
To love someone means to want what is best for them, and be willing to do something about it... and that includes their salvation.
As a Christian, I am my brother's keeper... like it, or not.
The Question for us is this: Are we willing to help each other get to Heaven?