“SON OF MAN, WARN THEM IN MY NAME!”
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
In the first Reading from Ezechiel, we find the expressions “Son of man’ and ‘sentry’. Prophet Daniel, too, speaks of a Son of Man coming on the clouds to face the One of great age (Dan. 7,14). Jesus on several occasions appropriated this expression and called himself the son of man: He is the Son of Man, of divine origin (Daniel: ‘coming on the clouds’). Why son of man? Who is a sentry? Son of man, according to Jewish way, is a true member of the human race. And ‘sentry’ is a watchman. Applied to Ezechiel, as a prophet, he is the moral guardian ‘of the House of Israel’.
There are TWO clear teachings in this Sunday’s readings.
From Ezechiel: “Son of man (i.e. sentry, watchman, prophet), warn them in my name, warn the wicked man to renounce his ways or I will hold you responsible for his death”.
From the Gospel of Matthew: “If your brother (sister) does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone.. or even go to him with two or three witnesses.. or even report him to the community”.
Does the warning in the first case (Ezechiel) concerning the wicked man, regard the prophet only? Who is duty-bound to raise his voice to warn and correct anyone going astray? Good sense and right reason suggest that anybody with moral, legal, spiritual authority and responsibility in any human community is duty-bound to raise his voice “to warn them”. Not only the prophet or the religious leader, but all parents, guardians, elders, teachers, community leaders, supervisors, community officers…have a serious and moral duty “to warn”, coming from the human order established by God. Failing to do that implies fault, cowardice and condemnation: “I will hold you responsible for his death”.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus extends such responsibility to every member of the community. He addresses the Christian community, brothers and sisters, who have chosen to follow his way of life. Jesus says that not only church leaders, not only those with authority, but we all - each and all members - are responsible for one another, anybody and everybody. We are “church”, i.e. community, a living body, members of one another. What is good for you is good for me; what is bad for you is bad for me. Hence the duty of mutual correction in charity, sincerity and truth.
Mutual correction does not imply superiority. In fact it demands humility, which is truth. It means that we are all sinners and that nobody is perfect. Courage is needed too, to face a possible unforeseen rebuff on the part of those who do not believe in such spiritual exercise and service, but prefer to mind their own business and to be left alone.
Truly as Christians, followers of Jesus, we are responsible for one another and for the whole world. We are bound to uphold and act on behalf of truth, honesty, respect for human rights and concern for the common good.
Finally it is in place to remember that, besides exercising the duty of fraternal correction, it is very important to be ready and open to receive, even to welcome, correction. We should be grateful to those who show us better ways. Are we not keepers of one another?