for the twenty-third Sunday of the Year
Ez 33:7-9 - Rom 13:8-10 - Mt 18:15-20
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
A single Body of Christ
Ez 33:7, [The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows:] «So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8, If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9, But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life.»
A certain number of years ago, exactly how many is not important, God created man in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). When he created the first man, God the Father, to whom we attribute all the act of creation, was already seeing his Son in the flesh, that is to say Christ. In seeing Christ, the Father could not help but think of all those who, one day, would be part of the mystical Body of Christ: the Church.
In the thought and love of the Father, the first man was not created alone: the desire for a companion was already inscribed in him. This is what the Lord confirmed when he said: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Gen 2:18) And when the man saw the woman for the first time, he cried out: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." (Gen 2:23) Ever since man was created, whether considered before or after the coming of Christ, man has never been alone! A married man is responsible for his wife, and she for him. Parents are responsible for their children, and to a certain extent, children for their parents. Man is responsible for his brothers and sisters, and they for him. And in a manner that is more specific, for it is spiritual, each Christian is responsible for his brothers and sisters in Christ.
In today's first reading, the Lord warns the prophet Ezekiel, by threatening him with sufferings and punishments if he does not exercise his responsibilities: the prophet must announce to the wicked man that he would soon die if he does not convert at the soonest. The Prophet Ezekiel is a model and example for us. However, we are not prophets like the great Ezekiel! Most of us are but simple believers, nothing more.
Nonetheless, if we believe in Christ, the Son of God, the Great Prophet of all time, then we can and should ask God, in Christ, through Mary, for all the graces necessary to exercise, to the fullest, our responsibilities toward ourselves, toward all the Body of Christ, and toward the entire world!
Rom 13:8, Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9, The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10, Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
There are cases, more or less numerous depending on the circumstances of time and place, in which we are responsible for such and such a person and yet it is impossible for us to do anything truly effective. So what do we do? Saint Paul recommends charity. I would add prayer. Or rather I would express my charity through prayer. Especially if I could not express my charity otherwise.
Mt 18:15, [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 gained your brother. 16, But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17, If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18, Truly, 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. 19, Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20, For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.»
Jesus is full of wisdom, as usual! When we are telling someone they are at fault, we must always do so in private, at least at first: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone." (Mt 18:15) Let us tell our brother his faults, but one-to-one, not in public. For quite often a comment or criticism made in public yields little fruit or none at all: the reprimanded brother may not be at fault; so why risk publicly accusing him of a fault he may not have committed?
With Christ, with the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, with all of our brothers and sisters who believe in the Lord, and with all men of good will, we form but a single Body, a Body that lives and breathes thanks to communal prayer. When we pray together, Jesus, the Word of Life, is in our midst, or even in us: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Mt 18:20) Let us live as a single Body of Christ, in the single Spirit of God!