23rd Sunday Year – A – 14
Eze.33:7-9; Rom.13:8-10; Matt.18:15-20
There was an 85 year-old lady who found her husband in bed with another woman. She was so enraged that she dragged him to the balcony of their Miami high-rise and pushed him off, and he fell to his death. She was arrested, of course, and when she appeared before the judge he asked her if she had anything to say in her defense. “Well, your honor,” she said, “I figured if he were able to be unfaithful to his wife at age 92, he surely would be able to fly.”
We’ve all had times when we were angry enough to throw someone off a high building, but that’s not the way Jesus tells us to deal with the sin of another person. The common theme of today’s readings is our responsibility towards the salvation of others in our community because they are God’s children and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are, therefore, the “keepers” of our brothers and sisters, for each one of us is important to all others in our Faith community. This individual responsibility in a Christian society includes, as today’s readings remind us, our responsibility for each other. Perhaps the most painful obligations of watchful love are fraternal correction and generosity in forgiving and forgetting injuries.
In the First Reading, we heard of the mission of Ezekiel to be a “watchman” for the house of Israel. The role of the watchman is not to become a busybody, but rather to live with a wide-eyed awareness to what is good and right and life-giving. Watchmen, because they have a sense of what is good, also are able to sense danger. Watchmen would sense what is dangerous for the individual and for the community.
Watchmen can then sound the alarm; they can sound the call to action, and the prophetic call to change. A world which emphasizes privacy and independence may not have any room for watchmen. Thus, to be a watchman may not be popular today. But let us remember that we are brothers and sisters to each other. As such, we must be responsible for each other; we must be keepers to each other.
Our concern for each other would call us to be a watchman to the community where we belong. However, some world leaders found out that they could not afford to be independent. We have observed that some world leaders have bonded themselves to protect the world from danger, from terrorism. When they see an imminent danger, they would do something to prevent it from happening. They have become watchmen of the world.
In the Second Reading, St Paul exhorted the Romans to “owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” So, we do not only show our concern to the other, but we should also love the other. Love and concern are very much related. Only those people who love can show concern to the person. Loving does not show what could be considered “comfortable” by the person.
If we truly love the person, we always tell what we want to say and to do, even if this appears a discomfort to the other. Even if it offers discomfort and pain to the other, we have to take note that “love does no evil to the neighbor.”
Our gospel today is taken from the fourth major discourse called the social Discourse where Jesus teaches us how he expects his followers to treat others. Our gospel introduces one of the topics Jesus spoke on in the Social Discourse with these words: “If your brother sins against you…” Two of the oldest and best Greek manuscripts do not have the words “against you.” They say simply “if your brother sins.” Most commentators hold that the words “against you” were not part of the original gospel.
In the gospel, Jesus gives an exhortation on fraternal correction. He says that if a person sins against you, the next thing you should do is “to go and tell his fault between you and him alone.” This does not happen always though. When a person has done something wrong against us, we usually create a wall between him and us. We do not want to talk to that person. What we want is that this person instead should be the one to come, and say sorry to us.
But what if the person does not know that he has already hurt you? What we should do? For Jesus, even if we are hurting, we should go to the person and tell him that he has done wrong to us. It may be difficult because it would mean getting rid of our pride. The work of correcting our erring brothers or sisters is not easy. It gives us discomfort. It can be embarrassing. And it can be risky too because it might lose a long established friendship. Some people prefer silence, not to say any word to erring brother, sister or friend, lest that he or she may be hurt.
Again, all of us are responsible for the salvation of others. We cannot afford to think only of ourselves. We are all brothers and sisters and therefore must always show our concern and love for each other. We must remain a watchman for others, we must love others, and lastly, we must correct others when they have done wrong. This is difficult to do, but if we have the heart, that is, love and concern, for them, then we must do everything for them.
Modern believers tend to think that they have no right to intervene in the private lives of their fellow believers. Others evade the issue saying, “As a sinner, I don’t have the moral courage or the right to correct anyone.” But Jesus emphatically affirms that we are our brothers’ keepers, and we have the serious obligation to correct others. Have we offered advice and encouragement to our friends and neighbors and coworkers when it was needed, and loving correction in private for a personal offense where that was possible?
Today’s readings remind us of the good we can do together, and of how we can do it. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” If any group of us gather, work, and act with the Holy Spirit guiding us, we will become much more than simply the collective number of people we are. Today, Jesus makes it clear how important we are, one to another.
Let us admit the fact that a great degree of indifference to religion shown by our young men and women is due to lack of parental and fraternal control, training and example. Let us with love and concern; correct our own children and our brothers and sisters with whom we live in this world. Let God be praised. Amen.