Twenty-Third Sunday Ordinary Time, A
Ez 33:7-9; Ps 95:1-2,6-7,8-9; Rom 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20
(Scriptures included after homily)
Sometimes we have kind of a
sixth sense about things we
should or shouldn’t do.
Women call it, intuition. Men call it, a gut feeling. Parents and the elderly call it, experience. And the faithful call it, the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
When I was a young and fearless kid of 17, my cousin and I used to bike and drive all over northern New Jersey. It was pretty rural back then. And I remember one particular night. It was very late, and we were on our way back home. We were in the middle of the woods somewhere, and as I drove, it started to become very, very foggy. The fog was so thick that I literally could not see any further than a couple of feet in front of the car. And on top of that, we were very, very lost.
I remember driving really slowly, when all of a sudden, my cousin yelled out, “STOP!” Now maybe it was his intuition or his gut feeling. Or maybe he just had better eyesight than me. But, my immediate response was to jam on the brakes and then kindly ask him, “Why?” (By then, my heart was jolted into my throat. And I think I swallowed it.)
When we got out of the car, we discovered that we were only about 5-feet from the edge of an in-ground swimming pool, which I would have driven right into, had I not stopped.
You see, if I had not listened to, and immediately obeyed God’s Watchman, who just happened to be my cousin Greg, then neither of us would be here today, nor our kids, nor our grandkids. (Praise the Lord for cousins, ears and reflexes.)
Sometimes we’re called to be God’s Watchmen.
And sometimes we’re called to be His Listeners.
And the importance of both could mean life or death for every one of us.
The LORD made it painfully clear to the prophet Ezekiel that being a morally responsible Watchman was critically important to his own life. You see, in ancient times, the Watchman was the person who stood on the outer walls of the city and kept watch for any potential threats. When a threat was seen, the Watchman blew his trumpet to warn the citizens to prepare for invasion.
If he didn’t warn them, and they were all killed, HE would be held responsible for their deaths.
On the other hand, if he did warn them, and they decided NOT to listen to, or believe him, (just as I could have done when my cousin, Greg yelled “STOP!”), then the Watchman would NOT be held accountable for their death, because he DID give them the warning.
So Pronouncing the message and
Listening to the message
are equally important.
You see, at the same time the LORD appoints us as Watchmen, the Psalmist reminds us: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” It is a voice that often comes to us at unexpected times and through unexpected people.
So where do WE fit into all of this?
Well, we might not be defending cities. And we might not be driving into swimming pools. But every day, we are confronted with threats to our own morality. Threats that we might not even recognize.
Someone once said that Satan doesn’t roam around in a red cape, with a pitchfork.
But he does dress in the lure of comfort and laziness. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t all need a physical break every once in a while. But just because something is comfortable, doesn’t always mean it’s good for us.
He does dress in the lure of TV, movie and internet immorality, disguised as: glamorous sex, exciting murder, justified revenge and bone chilling horror. And none of these are very good for our psyche or our souls, even though they may seem entertaining.
He dresses in the lure of Facebook and Twitter gossip, that can not only make people feel bad, but can actually be debilitating and dehumanizing.
He dresses in the false euphoria of alcohol and drugs, that may anesthetize us from the pain of the world, but at the same time will physically kill us (and maybe even others, indirectly).
And he dresses in the lure of our own emotions, like uncontrolled anger and hatred, like disrespect and inordinate pride.
And we’re often blinded to recognize any of these pitfalls in our own lives, thinking they’re OK, or rationalizing that we’re not hurting anyone, when, in reality, WE’RE the ones taking on the red cape and the pitchfork ourselves.
And that’s why we have Watchmen.
And that’s why we have Community.
And that’s why we have Church.
Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” Mt 18:15-20
In our Communities, together with Jesus, we have Sounding Boards, to hear and respond to our needs and our prayers.
We have Diversity in our thoughts, to give us the greatest chance of success in whatever challenges we may run into.
We have that Spirit of Calm in others, when Chaos seems to be overwhelming us.
And we have Watchmen, to warn us of those threats that we ourselves may be blind to.
When we come together as Community, we open ourselves up to Reconciliation. This is God’s Gift of reunion to us, when events in our lives tend to separate us from one another.
And in that Reconciliation, we are Released, we are “Loosed” from the chains of hatred and sin. And in that ‘Freedom of Release’, we are then Bound together in Love and Forgiveness.
This is the Unbound Freedom of heaven, and
the Bound Freedom of community
that Jesus promises each and every one of us,
when we live our lives
watching over each other,
Let us pray always, brothers and sisters, that, as God’s Watchmen, and together in the Name of Jesus, He will lead us along that non-foggy path of Reconciliation, and Peace, and Holiness, now and forever.
. . . Dedicated to Greg, on his 60th birthday this month!
Scripture Readings for the Mass of 09-07-14
The Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
First Reading: Ez 33:7-9
Thus says the LORD: 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. If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ” and 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 for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
R If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, Where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.”
Second Reading: Rom 13:8-10
Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet, ” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.
Gospel: Mt 18:15-20
Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
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