Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 95; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20
Theme: On Sentry Duty
‘Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make him a suitable companion to help him.”’ (Gen 2:18) This was God’s own observation of the life of man, even before it truly began. The nature of God is the nature of community; God is a community of persons – Father, Son and Spirit. And if God made humans in his own image and likeness, (Gen 1:26-27) then it is only fitting that humans should also live in community. And so, God made woman for the man as a companion. With time, the first man and woman multiplied and filled the whole earth. That is where we are today.
The very fact of God giving the first man a companion indicates that we cannot live this life in isolation. Since we are social beings, we need each other to journey through life. Where the journey gets tough, we can most certainly rely on each other for support. This is also very true of our spiritual journey, and this is the point the readings of today’s Mass speak to us about.
In the first reading, God tells us through the prophet Ezekiel that we are mutually responsible for each other’s spiritual safety. Using the imagery of the watchman, God says we have the same duty as a city’s watchman towards each other. He calls us to spiritual alertness and to warn each other of spiritual dangers. Saint Paul tells us in the second reading that doing this is a debt we owe each other in love. He who loves someone looks out for the beloved’s good. And Jesus takes it a step further in the gospel text by asking us not to easily give up on people in pursuing their spiritual good, even if they will not readily listen to us.
But why must we look out for each other? Why must we warn each other of looming spiritual danger(s)? Why does God call us to be the watchman on the wall? Do people not
naturally know what is good and what is bad for them? I adduce three reasons why.
Some people are innocently on the path of error. There are lots and lots of people who are on the path of error without realizing it. Such people may think it is okay to live the way they do, to do the things they do. Such people need someone from the sideline to tell them they have entered the wrong lane. The bible says “There is a way that seems right unto man, but the end thereof is destruction.” (Prov 16:25) To such people, we need to sound the watchman’s trumpet.
Some people know they are on the path of error but simply do not care. There are very many people who fall into this group. Some do not care because they do not really understand the implications of their lifestyle; there are others who do not care because of the transient pleasures and gains from such lifestyles; and there are still others who do not care because they have sold their souls to the devil. They too, need the sound the watchman’s trumpet.
Some people lack the courage to give up the way of error. A lot of Christians have to struggle with this, moving back and forth in their spiritual journey. Today, they give their lives to Christ, tomorrow they are back in the way of sin. As scripture says in Rev 3:15, they are “neither hot nor cold.” These people need a loud blast of the watchman’s trumpet.
Dear children of God, today, God tells us that our own spiritual safety and salvation is largely tied to the safety and salvation of our brothers and sisters. God tells us through the prophet Ezekiel that if we work for the salvation of others, we ultimately also work for our own salvation, but if we neglect the salvation of others, then we neglect our own salvation too. God calls us to be on sentry duty. However, to be able to sound the sentry’s trumpet, we must ourselves be on the high walls of righteousness, since we cannot give what we do not have; to help someone up, we must ourselves be up. By extension therefore, as God calls us to be on sentry duty, he is first of all, calling us to climb up the wall of holiness. It is only then that we can see clearly, the dangers coming to our brothers and sisters and warn them of it.
There is a special calling here for pastors of souls (the clergy and lay leaders of different groups in church) and parents. By virtue of your position, with souls under your care, you are naturally on sentry duty at all times. God expects that you fulfill this role very well, for you shall give an account to God of how the souls he put in your charge fared. Know however, that all those under your care, be they your church members or children, will only listen to the sound of your trumpet if they see you standing at your duty post of uprightness. As scripture says, “an overseer must be above reproach” (1Timothy 3:2).
We pray for the grace to be spiritually alert and always on our duty post high up the wall of righteousness. May God also help us never to fail in our responsibility of helping each other on the way to heaven. Amen.