Grace to You!
A girl found it extremely difficult to forgive her parents. As a baby, her parents allowed her access to whatever she wanted whenever she cried for it. Such an enabling attitude resulted in an accident that caused her
to lose one of her eyes.
The role the parents of this girl played could be compared to the attitude of those who have the responsibility to speak the truth and prevent evil, but chose to be indifferent or turn the other way. Being willfully complacent in evil is as loathsome as the evil itself.
In the prophecy of Ezekiel 33:7-9, God warns the prophet against failure to speak the truth of God's Word. God also said that if someone falls into evil due to the prophet's failure to warn, the prophet will share the blame for that evil.
Borderline, the prophet, must be responsible for the task of prophecy. God called him to speak God's Word, not his own. He is to talk about the truth and not eulogize. He has to be wary of proclaiming divine endorsements and niceties to please the people, whereas God asks for repentance and repudiation of evil.
This responsibility is a duty in charity. As the Letter to the Romans says, "Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another” (Rm 13:8). It is charitable to warn people from getting drowned. The Church is a loving mother who teaches out of love and concern for her children. The Church, called to proclaim God's Word, shines the light to dispel evil and sinful darkness. The message is (and of) Christ, the goodness, which also is a terror to evil.
The same disposition inspires us to follow Christ's way of personal reconciliation among members of his body. In dealing with personal sins that 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 responsibility 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 the person. If the sinner has sincerely repented, praise God, and maintain that privacy afterward. If the sinner remains indifferent or unrepentant, we meet again, 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).
The above recommendation 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 opportunities for saving grace. As he said, "I have come not for the righteous, but sinners" (Lk 5:32). The Lord was called a friend of tax collectors and sinner.
The Lord invites us to do the same. No offense against us is worth hate in the community of faith.
However, suppose the individual's sin is to cause moral, social, or bodily harm to the community because of its harmful influence. In that case, sometimes, some discipline is encouraged for the safety of the vulnerable, like children.
It is because when we put a bad fruit among good fruits, the rotten fruit corrupts the others. Indifference to evil or sinful situation is a tacit endorsement of it. It could lead to the polarizing effect 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 ministers of God's Word, 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 indifferent to it makes the prophet liable to God's judgment (Ez 33:7-9).
May this Word of God be a severe warning to us, ministers of the Word. Are we proclaiming the Word of God or our mere opinions? Are we showing the holiness of God or the worldliness of our complacency?
I am praying for the courage to proclaim the Gospel with love, even when it is against the world's popular ways. 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]
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Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.