Date: Sunday, September 10, 2017
Florida Governor Rick Scott has been a watchman or sentinel. He has been urging Floridians to prepare for Hurricane Irma and, for those near the storm surge, to evacuate. Like Ezekiel, the prophet exiled with the Jewish community in Babylon, he warns his contemporaries of their peril. Not everyone listens and turns from harm. Ezekiel is not worried about the threat of a hurricane but destructive moral behavior that will incur God’s judgment. God tells Ezekiel that he is his “brother’s keeper,” or in other words, Ezekiel has a responsibility for the rectitude of others in the faith community.
Jesus sets a high moral standard when a rich young man asks him what to do to gain eternal life. Jesus encourages him to keep the commandments: “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But Jesus at the same time sets a very high priority on forgiveness, on the responsibility to seek reconciliation, and to amend bad behavior. We have in our Gospel today an example of due process to address a wrong. First one is to speak quietly with the offending person. If this does not remedy the situation then discuss the matter with one or two other persons present. If this fails, then bring the matter to “the church” or local assembly. There may be a need to establish some detachment from the offending party (treating the person like a tax collector or Gentile) but always remembering how Jesus treats tax collectors and Gentiles – with respect and dignity. Throughout the process of healing divisions, Jesus is present within the community.
These are real life situations when the behavior of one person becomes a deep concern for others and a threat to family and community harmony. Everyone one at Mass today can give examples.
I enjoyed reading the novella “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. It was made into a movie directed by Robert Redford. The Maclean family lived in Missoula, Montana. Pastor John Maclean was a Presbyterian Minister who instilled in his two sons (Norman & Paul) a love for fly casting and fishing. Throughout this biographical story written by Norman there is concern for Paul – his drinking and gambling. In one of his last sermons Pastor John Maclean says to the congregation: “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one in need and ask the same question: “We are willing to help Lord but what if anything is needed.” For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or more often than not the part we have to give is not wanted. So it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them; we can love completely without complete understanding.”
I find it interesting that the teaching of Jesus on brotherly correction ends with an appeal to pray together with an assurance that Jesus will be with us. Brotherly and sisterly correction begins and ends with prayer.