We are in the 23rd week in ordinary time. The readings today remind us that we are a member of the body of Christ. Being a member of the body of Christ means that we belong to the single Body of Christ and form a community of brothers and sisters in Christ. We are, therefore, the “keepers” of our brothers and sisters, for each one of us is important to all the others in our Faith community.
In the first reading, God tells Ezekiel that he is to be a “watchman for the house of Israel.” As a watchman, Ezekiel had responsibilities to his people. His responsibility was to give them God’s words, challenge them, and correct them when they did wrong, so that the responsibility for their wrongdoing would be theirs. As Christians, we are all God’s prophets, representatives and watchmen, and we have a responsibility towards one another. God warns Ezekiel if he refrained from speaking God’s word, intended to convert the wicked and bring them to holiness, God would hold Ezekiel responsible.
In today’s second reading, Paul, after urging the Christian converts of Rome to obey the authorities, reminds them that Mosaic Law cannot save them, no matter how well they may keep it. Here, Paul seems to be saying, “You still want the Law because it is important.” Paul continues that he will give the people the real law, which is to love one another. This fulfills the law. If God is not known and loved, there can be no basis or motive for true love of neighbor. It is only the presence of God in each human being and the recognition of others as God’s children that can form a sound basis for the love of our neighbors. In short, love is the basis of the law, and we fulfill the law by loving our neighbor. Paul reminds us that love requires us to be mindful of others and their redemption.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that true Christian charity obliges a Christian not only to assist his neighbors in their temporal and spiritual needs with material help and prayer, but also with correction and counsel for an erring brother or sister. The readings say that if the erring brother refuses a one-on-one loving correction, then the Christian should try to involve more people: first, “one or two others,” and eventually “the church.” But harsh words and an aggressive attitude have no place in a Christian community. Finally, Jesus mentions the efficacy of community prayer in solving such problems, for Christ is present in the praying Christian community. The whole thrust of the passage is that we should all work towards reconciliation, rather than punishment, and go out of the way to help others and to bring reconciliation.
Often we are more comfortable in correcting others. Jesus cautions us in Mathew 7:3, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” This means we need to set a holy and perfect example to others. Some people also have the tendency to think that they have no right to correct others, “I don’t have the moral right to correct someone when I am a sinner.” But Jesus emphatically affirms that we are our brothers’ keepers, and we have obligations towards others. The readings further 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 we work and act together with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be very effective in guiding others to the right path, to God. Today, Jesus makes it clear how important we are to one another. One in Christ, our community can use God’s power to make His healing, life-giving love more effective among His people.