Grace to You!
A beautiful girl lost one of her eyes due to the carefree attitude of her mom when she was a baby. She crawled to a sharp object, picked it up and the mom took the object from her. She started to cry ceaselessly, so much so that her mom allowed her to play with that harmful object. The result was an accident causing her to lose her left eye.
When she grew up and realized how she lost one of her eyes, she found it hard to forgive her mom for allowing her to hurt herself when she was a baby. The role the mother of this girl played could be likened to the attitude of those who have the responsibility to speak the truth and prevent evil from happening, but are indifferent or chose not to do so.
In the prophesy of Ezekiel 33:7-9, God warns the prophet against failure to speak the truth of God’s word. God also said that if, due to the failure of the prophet, someone falls into evil, the prophet would share in the responsibility of blame for the evil.
Borderline, the prophet must be responsible to the task of prophecy. Speak God’s word, not your own. Speak the truth and not eulogize or be poised on saying nice things so people would love us.
This responsibility is a duty out of love. As the Letter to the Romans says, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another” (Rm 13:8). The Church is a loving mother who teaches out of love and concern for her children.
In dealing with personal sins which affect the smooth running of the community of faith, the Lord Jesus tells us how to proceed with the goal of repentance and reconciliation for the sinner. This, too, is an act of spiritual responsibly born out of love for the brethren who sinned against us.
The Gospel of Matthew 18:15-20 has details of the steps to take for reconciliation: First of all, we are obligated to privately approach the sinner, perhaps so we will not publicly humiliate him or her. If the sinner has sincerely repented, praise God and maintain that privacy afterwards. If the sinner remains indifferent or unrepentant, we have an obligation to meet again, but this time with two or three witnesses. If the individual refuses to listen to all, we are asked to tell it to the Church. And if the offender still refuses to listen even to the Church, “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector” (Mt 18:17).
This doesn’t suggest hating the person, but treating the person as Jesus would treat a tax collector or a Gentile. We know how Jesus treated tax collectors and gentiles. He loved them even more and offered them opportunity for saving grace. As he said, “I have come not for the righteous, but for sinners” (Lk 5:32). The Lord was called friend of tax collectors and sinner.
We are called to do the same. No offense against us is worth hate in the community of faith.
However, if the sin of the individual is such as to cause moral, social or bodily harm to the community because of its bad influence, sometimes, for the care of the vulnerable, like children, some discipline is encouraged.
It is because when we put a bad fruit among good fruits, the bad fruit corrupts the others. Indifference to evil or sinful situation is a tacit endorsement of it. It could lead to polarizing of that evil. An example of such corruption has been witnessed over the years in the progressive acceptance of abortion. Allow me to read you a passage from the book, Surprised by Truth by Patrick Madrid:
"I was shocked to learn that no Protestant denominations had permitted contraception until 1930, when at its Lambert Conference the Anglican Communion announced it no longer viewed it as sinful. Since then, every single Protestant denomination had followed suit. What ensued was the inevitable progression from allowing contraception to allowing abortion." (Ref: "Surprised By Truth" by Patrick Madrid, Basilica Press, page 247).
While some, with the responsibility to preach, may be hesitant to speak up against public sins, saying, "It is none of my business", God’s word is telling us something different. As parents, ministers of God’s words, etc., we have an obligation to speak. It is a responsibility born out of love.
God was direct in asking Ezekiel not to hold back from warning people against His judgment. Failure to do that prophetic job, or simply to be indifferent to it, makes the prophet liable to the judgment of God (Ez 33:7-9).
May this word of God be a serious warning to us, ministers of the Word? Are we proclaiming the word of God or our own word? Are we showing the holiness of God or the worldliness of our complacency?
Praying for the courage to proclaim the Gospel with love even when it’s against the current. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Sunday 23rd Sunday Year A: Ez 33:7-9; Rm 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.