Homily (2) 23rd Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Ps 95:1-2, 6-9’ Rom 13:8-10 and Matthew 18:15-20
Regaining our Personal and Communal Hope
Today’s Psalm 95 “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts,” invites us to worship the Lord, the king of kings, the shepherd of Israel. It invites us to open our ears, our hearts, mind and soul and continuously be loyal to God. It reminds us what we learned in the past, and what we continue to learn today: the precepts of the Lord, the Ten Commandants, the love of God and love of one’ neighbor, as well as the teachings of the Church. The entire Bible readings of today, allow us to rise to our responsibilities, to regain our personal and communal hope, an increase our appetite for fraternal correction, and the desire to meet God in a special way.
Israel’s experience in the Babylonian exile of 587 BC was not a good one. It led to despair. Ezekiel addresses such despair or hopelessness in the 1st reading: a sermon of restoration, hope and reestablishment of the covenant, once broken by sin.
As a prophet of exile, Ezekiel is reappointed as God’s instrument, with a divine appellations “son of man” and as a “watchman” of Israel, emphasizing his humanity, and prophetic responsibilities. His duty is to courageously serve as an antidote to discouragement and despair. He is to bring fraternal correction to bear in the community. As a watchman, Ezekiel is commissioned to remind Israel that the sins of one’s past count for nothing when we repent and do what is right.
In Romans 13: 8-10, Saint Paul, like Ezekiel, plays the same prophetic role of preaching remedies to despair and discouragement. Paul re-articulate the 10 commandments we learned in our catechisms classes, and Sunday schools. Those in the Book of Exodus and of course in Deuteronomy “Shama Israel”, (Listen Israel). These laws are wonderful. But for Paul, love or charity to our neighbors fulfills them.
The same message reechoes in the Gospel (Matt 18:15-20) where Jesus says, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault. If he refuses invites two other people to come with you. But if he still refuses to listen bring the matter to the church, the community of believers. For where two or three gathered in God’s name, God is surely in their midst.
In all these, when we put the messages of Ezekiel, Paul and that of Jesus together, one single theme stands out, namely’ “being our brothers/sisters keeper,” watching out for neighbors. In the case of Ezekiel, bringing them hope and support when everybody seems to be hopeless and despair. In the case of Paul, truly no one who loves his neighbor would think of stealing his neighbor’s property, abusing his children or wife, since “Love does no evil to the neighbor.” What stands out in the Gospel also is that, we be a watchman or a watchwoman to our neighbors in our prayers and counseling. Those pieces of advice we gently and compassionately give to our grandchildren, children, friends, partners, colleagues, spouses count. They go a long way to help. You never know! We are call to love and to watch our neighbors back, speak well about our neighbors, whether they are there or not.
Today, we live in a very troubling time. A time of uncertainties, of poverty, widening gap between the poor and the rich . Nobody knows what the terrorists might do next. Nobody knows how far that earthquake might go. Nobody knows hundred percent, how far the wars going on in different parts of the world might extend. We are yet to control recent outbreak of epidemics and diseases including AIDs and EBOLA. We still have gun violent, police brutalities, cultural and racial crises in our world. In all these, we have every reason to listen to God’s voice and pray for our nations and world at large, our civil leaders and ecclesiastical leader. Like Ezekiel, Paul and Christ, we have every reason to be our brothers and sister keepers, to constantly pray, advice, and watch out for one another; Regaining our personal and communal hope!