Thus says the Lord: You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked "O wicked one, you shall surely die," and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.(P) The word of the Lord.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to Him. (R)
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides. (R)
Oh, that today you would hear His voice: "Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works." (R)
Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.(P) The word of the Lord.
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 won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on Earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One midnight a watchman doing his rounds was surprised to find his master still awake and wandering aimlessly around the garden behind his house. The watchman asked him, "What are you doing up so late, Sir?" With a sad look on his face the man replied, "My sleep has disappeared and I am looking for it."
How many of you feel that you have lost not just sleep but also appetite, peace and joy in life? You may have many different reasons why you have lost them. Today's first reading from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel warns us that we could lose even our very life because of sin. When the Lord called Ezekiel to be His prophet the Jews were held captive in Babylon about six hundred years before Christ. In today's text we read a part of what the Lord said to the prophet. The Lord compared Ezekiel's work as a prophet to that of a watchman. In ancient days, the city would have a wall around it to afford better protection from enemy attacks. It was the task of a watchman or a guard to position himself high on the wall with a trumpet; watch carefully and alert people of the coming danger. Often it was a matter of life and death. If the watchman failed to do his job and people suffered as a result, he would have to pay for his failure with his life. The Lord used this as an illustration to describe the role of the prophet - as a spiritual watchman of the Israelites. It was his task, as a prophet, to speak out courageously and clearly explain the commands of the Lord even if the people did not want to hear. The command of the Lord to the prophet was to tell the people that because of their wickedness they would surely die. At the same time he himself was warned that if he did not correct the wicked and warn them of the consequences of their evil ways their destruction becomes his responsibility. The Lord said to him, "If you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked and try to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself."
Friends, the message is plain, simple and direct. It teaches us a practical lesson for life. Like the prophet each of us has been given the charge of confronting people on their sin. The Lord wants us not only to avoid sin and pursue holiness but also wants us to help others grow and remain faithful. There is no doubt that we all sin and are imperfect. But sin affects all of us, both when we sin and when others sin. Hence, every sin needs to be dealt with because it is not merely something that hurts someone else, but also puts us on the path to losing sleep, appetite, peace, joy and everlasting life. When our sins are pointed out some of us have the courage to change. Whereas many others enjoy living in sin and do not intend to give it up. Therefore, the Lord wants us to diligently exhort and warn one another about the dangers of sin. However it is not easy to go up to others and warn them of the dangers of sin. Some people can get really offended when you try to correct them. Moreover there are a lot of wicked people in the world. How are we supposed to warn all of these people? The prophet Ezekiel was called to primarily warn the nations of Judah and Israel and then other nations surrounding them. So too God has not called us to warn every sinner that crosses our path but rather holds us accountable to be faithful "watchmen" to those in whose midst He has placed us. And we are not also called to a prophetic ministry like the prophets. A prophet has a unique and special vocation. So also we all have been given special vocations. For instance, as a priest I have the obligation to call on people from all walks of life to repent of their sins even if they do not want to hear it. Our Church must speak out boldly concerning issues that are core to our beliefs.
One of the main callings of God to His people is the call to be a parent or child or brother or sister in a family. Therefore, the primary people we are to be concerned about are our family members. We know from our own experience there are many sins that divide our families or cause rifts in our relationships. The yardstick to measure others and ourselves is the commandments of the Lord. In today's second reading Saint Paul reminds us of those commandments - "You shall not commit adultery. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not covet. These and all other commandments are summed up in one, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
These commandments speak of our obligation to one another. It is a call to warn people in our own families and communities, of the dangers of sin and encourage them to turn from their evil ways so that they will live and we will save our own life also. However, we must correct them gently and lovingly. Saint Paul says that we "owe one another nothing but love, and love does no evil to the neighbor." In other words, fraternal correction is not meant to shame or embarrass or judge the other person but to express our love for the other. Many of us do not want to confront people about their sin for two reasons:
Friends, today we are warned that if we do not warn one another of the dangers of sin, and help one another to grow and remain faithful to God we will die in our sins and the Lord will hold us responsible as well for our failure to warn others of their sins.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!