23rd Sunday A
IF HE LISTENS
My dear brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the first Sunday within the Season of Creation. The season reminds us and focuses on God as the Creator of the universe and our duty to care and use responsibly this great gift of God thereby protecting its rich diversity. We have come to see the threats to our continued existence on earth and must do something urgently, to preserve it for future generations.
First Reading (Ezekiel 33: 7-9)
The prophet Ezekiel describes God’s warning to himself, and by implication to all of us. He is made a watchman or sentry to the house of Israel. The sentry is commissioned to stay at a vantage point to watch out for the approaching enemy and to alert all those in the camp about the impending danger. Sentries and forts are cited on top of mountains and sea coasts, where guards could easily detect any incursion on the part of the enemy.
Ezekiel in this reading compares the task of the prophet to that of the sentry. The prophet is called, to read the signs of the times and to warn the household of Israel, about the impending danger. If they listen to him, they may change and thereby avert the impending danger. Should they fail to listen, the prophet would have done his own job. Each one of us have been given that task like the prophet to save our generation. In this Season of creation, we are called to listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. In the Laudato Si of Pope Francis, he reminded us clearly, ‘that everything and everyone is interconnected, interdependent.’ We are responsible for each other. The prophet who is called to be a sentry is also a member of the same community.
The looming danger is the lack of care shown to creation, which has effect on us all. The cry of the earth is seen clearly in climate change, in the storms and the fires, the melting ice and the floods, the droughts, pollution of air, waterways, and loss of biodiversity and ecological degradation. The cry of the poor is heard and seen in the increasing number of poor people in the world, in spite of its abundant resources, widespread hunger, malnutrition, homelessness, sicknesses, mass migration and the general struggle for survival. We must do something before earth is no longer able to support human life and before the poor turns on the rich to devour them.
Second Reading (Romans 13:8-10)
Paul says that, ‘Love comes first and it is the summary of all the commandments.’ Love your neighbour as yourself. If we love others, we will not do anything that will hurt them. When you love, you have fulfilled all the commandments. But, what kind of love is this? How can you love God and treat his ‘very good creation’ without care? How do you claim to love God if you continue to impoverish your neighbour by the way you exploit the earth without consideration for others and future generations?
Gospel (Matthew 18: 15-20)
This Gospel raises a very practical issue: what do you do when you feel hurt by the other person? When offended the first thing many people do is to keep it to themselves, pretend that everything is normal. Meanwhile, they brood over it, become angry and sometimes depressed, and as a way to revenge, may cut off the offender.
Today’s Gospel presents us another approach. Jesus calls us to talk to the offender. Indeed it is our duty to do so. If we fail to do so, we would have failed to show the love that Jesus demands. It takes courage, and involves some risk. Confronting the other requires a Christ-like spirit and understanding. It means that one is ready to shift ground and apologise where he/she is wrong, rather than hold on to his/her side of the story.
The highest point of such encounter, is when we get the other person to see what he has done wrong and apologise. Where the offender refuses to admit his faults, the Lord says, get one or two persons to go with you. If he refuses still, report him to the community. This may mean the family or the Church. If he refuses at this stage what other option? He should be treated like a Gentile or a tax collector. Does this mean that he should be banished from the community and the church? How did Jesus relate to Gentiles and Tax Collectors? He sat at table with them, and sought to bring them back to the fold. The author of this Gospel was a Tax Collector himself. This means that Jesus will want us to see such people as those who have missed their way, they therefore need a lot of patience and help, to be reconciled to the community and the church. That’s a fresh ground for evangelisation.
Think deeply therefore, is there anyone you have vowed never to forgive over something he or she has done to you? Is there anyone in your life you do not want to FORGIVE—your husband, wife, parents or children, is it your boss or colleague? Have you followed the steps mentioned by Jesus in today’s Gospel, to find a solution to the problem, or you are just not interested? Can you still claim to be a true follower of Jesus when you choose what pleases you and not what the master wants in your relationship with him?
In this season of creation, can we think of the one we have offended THE MOST?—it is God. In the way we have treated his beautiful and wonderful creation, in the way we have wasted his love for us. The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor is loud and clear. We need to mend our ways with God and with the environment in which we live. The consequences of doing nothing today will be catastrophic in the nearest future. What is the conversion in ways of thinking, acting, and living together on Earth that God is calling us to? What are the changes in lifestyle and relationships with each other and with creation are necessary?
Let us pray: O God, grant us the grace to forgive those who have hurt us and to accept forgiveness from others. Give us the grace to become true carers of your beautiful creation. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen