Ez 33:7-9; Rom 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20
There are two major concerns and responsibilities in the heart and mind of the prophet Ezekiel.
He is first of all concerned with his own fidelity to God. He listens attentively to God’s word so that he can fulfill it diligently, “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.” There is first of all a relationship between God and the prophet, a relationship the prophet strives to maintain and deepen through listening attentively and acting appropriately.
He is also responsible for the fidelity of the people of Israel for God’s sake. God will hold him responsible for any wicked person who dies in the face of the prophet’s silence, “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” (Ez 33:7-9). The prophet’s salvation is tied to his fidelity to his mission, and his fidelity to His mission is tied to his fidelity to God.
It is not the prophet’s responsibility to make his message palatable to the people. His job is not to make the people like or accept him. He also cannot falsify the message to fit his own lifestyle. He cannot let the infidelity of the people make him unfaithful to God too. The prophet’s continuous fidelity to God and helping others to be faithful to God are his primary two-fold responsibilities. But he must first strive to be faithful to God before he can help others to be faithful to God for God’s sake.
When St. Paul said, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,” he used right actions as examples of the type of love that he meant, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal….” The first act of charity towards others is not words of correction or even words of love but loving action. We show true love for others by good examples that encourage others and spur them on to goodness, “Love does no evil to the neighbor” (Rom 13:8-10).
Without these good examples of love in action, we cannot fulfill the demands of fraternal correction that Jesus outlines for us in Mt 18:15-20. Jesus calls us to do all in our power to “win over our brother.” Instead of harboring grudges or gossiping behind their backs, we take the risk and go to our erring brethren in private. We humbly solicit the help of witnesses if the brethren remain adamant. When the sinful behavior persists, we involve the Church to remedy the situation with her authority and power, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The obstinate brethren are to be cut off from the Church when they persist in their sins lest they negatively influence the rest of the Church with their scandalous behavior.
How can we embark on this generous and relentless labor for the fidelity of one and all when we are not striving to be faithful to God ourselves? Remember the rebuke of Jesus, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?”(Lk 6:39) Our mere words alone are completely ineffective in touching and moving hearts when we take our own fidelity to God for granted.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must remember that we share in the prophetic office of Christ from the moment of our baptism. We have also received the outpouring of the Spirit in Confirmation and in every Eucharist to help us be faithful witnesses to Jesus today. But how many of us today can confidently say that we share in the two-fold responsibilities and concerns of the prophets? How many of us have these responsibilities as our primary goal in life?
Many of us today appear to be more passionate about global fraternity and climate change than actually growing in our fidelity to God and helping others to do the same. There are those who are so focused on their personal salvation that they do not care at all about the many souls redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ who are languishing in sin and error. Many try to dispense themselves from their responsibilities towards others by simply claiming, “Who am I to judge?” There are those wicked and misguided ones who will confirm others in their sins to placate them and win their favor. Then there are those who claim to be helping others in their spiritual journey but who neglect and ignore their own infidelity or even try to cover it up. Thus, infidelity abounds inside and outside the Church.
Jesus promises us two things when we become the Church of prophets we are called to be. He will hear and grant our prayers, “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.” We can only agree about what we are to pray for when we have the same concerns and embrace the same responsibilities of being faithful and helping others to be faithful too. God will answer our prayers for the conversion of souls, deeper faith, religious and priestly vocations, etc. We have no business praying for these things when we are not all striving with one mind and heart to be the prophets God is calling us to be. How tragic for us to forget that we will be held responsible for souls lost because of our wicked silence or bad example.
Secondly, Jesus promises us that we shall sense His abiding presence with us when we embrace our prophetic vocation, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Becoming His prophets, gathered to do His will for His sake, we begin to know that we are never alone. We have that hope that comes from communion with God in our midst. We do not live in fear or get discouraged by poor results or challenges in our apostolate.
These are what Jesus offers us if we cultivate the hearts and minds of His prophets today. Our Eucharist is a communion with Him, the Faithful Witness. In these times of widespread infidelity, let us first beg for the grace to labor for our fidelity to Him always. As we cultivate and grow in that fidelity to Him, we will experience the light and power to actually help others to be faithful to God for His own sake.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!