“Owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).” This puts great responsibilities on each of us to have love towards all God’s children. We live out God’s saving love by being true to who we are, as Disciples of Christ, who share in his priestly office, in his kingly office, as well as in his prophetic office.
Our reflection on the call of Ezekiel, the prophet, will help us understand what is expected of us on how we are to love our neighbor.
Earlier in his prophetic calling, Ezekiel was made to eat the scroll so that he could go and speak God’s word to the house of Israel (see Ezekiel 2:8-3:4). He then preached the message received from God, to the exiles as well as to those who remained in the land of Israel after the deportation. Called by God in line with the other earlier prophets, he urged the people to remain faithful to the God of the covenant. He used various images, symbolic actions and parables, to express the will of God for his people, to appeal to their conscience. The message of Ezekiel shows that the word of God and the power of his Spirit are capable of restoring life to dry bones, or reverse impossibilities, in the lives and history of his people. As well, he was considered as a watchman. By this, he is a sentinel who, acting on behalf of God, sounds the alarm for any impending danger. Added to this, he should reprove his people, or announce judgement to the people, who were to be condemned.
Today, he has been given an added responsibility. That responsibility is a new role for the people who were to be restored or saved. The prophet is the watchman who will be on guard and announce any coming danger to the people so that they can be saved. The prophet was to prepare the remaining people for salvation.
Like the prophet Ezekiel, we too are given a prophetic responsibility to be our brother’s keeper. Each of the baptize is called to be a watchperson or a sentinel who, on behalf of God, sounds the alarm for any impending danger. There are so many dangers for which we have been called to raise our voices to denounce and to alert our loved ones to guard against today. There are evils of secularism, materialism, hedonism, individualism, licentiousness, and many others. St. Paul warns us against these and many others when he writes his disciple Timothy in these words: “But understand this that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderous, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people.” (2 Tim 3:1-6) Continuing to instruct Timothy, St. Paul urged him: “ I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, proclaim the word, be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.”
Failure to observe these and say nothing means that the offender will die as a result of our silence and we will be held accountable for their death. This makes the prophetic vocation and responsibility very difficult. That is why in our gospel reading today, Our Lord Jesus Christ, wants his disciples to engage in fraternal correction. For this to be fruitful, it has to be motivated by sincere brotherly or sisterly love. Fraternal correction is very necessary to heal the wounds of sin and division within the Christian community. Whenever we are united in a single purpose to do what is right, Jesus is there present with us.
May God give us the Spirit and grace to be great prophets to be watchmen and women over the people entrusted to us, so that they will not go astray. May God bless us now and forever. Amen