23 Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A
I WILL HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE
When Cain killed Abel, he asked God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" God's answer is given through the prophet Ezekiel: a resounding "YES!" We are responsible for not only siblings but for anyone who is part of our life. If we are conscious that any of these people are doing something that will hurt themselves or others, God gives us a duty to give a warning.
The more serious the sin, the more we have an obligation to speak or act. If a friend is about to drive in a drunken condition, we must try to take the keys or offer to drive. If anyone we know is tempted to suicide, we MUST do all in our power to prevent it.
God warns us if we fail to take our obligations seriously. He will hold us guilt for the failure to warn others. This is not simply a pious thought, it is a serious duty!
TREAT HIM LIKE A TAX COLLECTOR
You may have a serious duty to perform fraternal correction on others in your life. If someone in your life is doing something morally wrong, we have a duty to advise the person about it. There are four separate steps to the process.
First, we must confront the person privately. This means that we must give a personal warning of the danger. We should not discuss it with others, but go to the person directly. This can be painful. We might lose a friend. But it's better than losing a life. It's a test of our true friendship.
If this fails, we must ask others to share the burden of convincing the person of his or her danger. We must choose reliable and loving companions for this responsibility. The goal is not to overwhelm the person, but to demonstrate how serious is the moral outcome.
If none of these actions succeed, the third session should involve a pastor. The priest may be able to convince the person of the gravity of the situation. Most pastors are trained to give some counseling or at least to know who to recommend for the issues.
Finally, if he person ignores all of these pleas, Jesus counsels a form of what might be called excommunication. There are times when we have to be firm. It's never easy to stop communication with someone we care about. It's called "tough love" and should always be the last resort. Of course it must never mean slamming the door shut. The object is to help a friend come back to God.
In Biblical times tax collectors were mercenaries who colluded with the occupation forces. They were shunned by other Jews.
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