BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika

Last Sunday Jesus gave us the terms and conditions of following him. They are self denial and carrying the cross to follow in his footsteps. Today he continues with the cost of discipleship. As discussed last Sunday, one of the crosses we carry is the cross of inconvenience. Today he gives each of a special assignment as guards over his earthly household and especially over our erring fellows to ensure that non of them are lost. This is going to be inconveniencing, isn’t it? Having to cope with or dealing with some people is already a big cross. But if we have a brother or sister who is walking along wrong path, is it enough for us to be in good terms with God, approaching the communion while that brother or sister of is ours miles away from the altar and God? We always care about ourselves, about our spiritual and temporal welfare. But we often overlook others. God is asking us to look into ourselves and think beyond ourselves for the spiritual welfare and salvation of others. This is the what the three readings of today join together to pass across.

In the first reading God uses the metaphor of a watchman to highlight the responsibility of his messenger over his people. In the ancient world, walls are built round a city. At the entrance is a tower. A sentry is mount on top of the tower who monitors the activities and movements of the inhabitants of the city and give warning in times of danger. A guard that doesn’t warn people of impending doom is a betrayer and must be treated scornfully. God calls Ezekiel a watchman who must warn the Israelites against the consequences of their sins so that they would repent. He would be responsible for their blood if he refused to warn them. Leaders, teachers, parents, pastors of souls are called to carry out this assignment from God diligently. In Hebrews 13:17 Leaders are watchmen who keep vigil over souls and will surely account for them. In Ezekiel 33:1-33: they are the ones who blows trumpet of warning at the sight of the sword. In Isaiah 62:6: One who watches by day and by night and shall never be silent. In second reading, St. Paul reminds us that the principle guiding this special mission must be love. Without love, the task of brotherly correction will be counter productive. Love is a debt we owe to our neighbours. It is on this note that he urges the Romans to owe no one anything but love.

In the gospel Jesus gives out an action plan for regaining our brothers or sisters who have fallen aside; they are steps that must be taken in order to achieve this. The steps move from private dialogue to public meeting. 1. We must approach the erring brother or sister one on one to tell him about the consequences of his action. 2. If he still refuses to change, then two or three persons will join together to talk to him. 3. If he is still recalcitrant then the matter will be taken to the community of the faithful. Jesus is emphasizing the importance of patience in dealing with others. He is asking us not to give up easily on those who go astray but to try all within our reach to bring him back.

People often refuse to repent because we first of all talk about their weaknesses in the public instead of coming to them for dialogue. Let us have that courage of approaching our brothers and sisters with weaknesses in order to help them out and rescue their souls. Lead questions for reflection today are: 1. Am I my brother’s/ sister’s keeper? 2. How do I care about the welfare of those placed under my care? 3. Am I a sleeping watchman or a watchman absconds his duty?
Happy Sunday.

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