The National Catholic Review
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), Sept. 4, 2005
“I have appointed you watchman for the house of Israel” (Ez 33:7)

We all know individuals who pride themselves on “keeping their noses out of other people’s business.” There is no virtue in being a busybody, but neither should we boast of disregard for others. On the other hand, some group-oriented societies seem to disdain the value of the individual. Personal preferences are regularly sacrificed for the common good. Unique talents or interests are renounced as threats to the status quo. Such extreme positions are beneficial for neither the individual nor the group. We need the community to thrive, and the community needs each of us to develop.

 

Ezekiel is called a “watchman for the house of Israel,” answerable to God for the spiritual well-being of others. He must convey God’s word to the people; it will be their responsibility to accept this word and follow its direction. If only Ezekiel had “minded his own business”! However, as “watchman for the house of Israel,” the spiritual well-being of the community was his business. Here we see the intimate relationship between the righteousness of one member and the religious soundness of the entire group.

Jesus insists that Christians cannot merely mind their own business. Each is responsible for the spiritual well-being of the entire community. Jesus describes a community that suffers from the sinfulness of one member. Reconciliation is necessary for the spiritual health of the entire group.

Reconciliation is a process. First, the offense is addressed by the individuals concerned. If it cannot be resolved, a few others are brought into the process. Only if this fails does it become a public matter. We see that the believing community is more like a family than a corporate organization. The goodness and the failings of one affect the entire family; the alienation of some is felt by all.

It is difficult to assume responsibility for the entire community, especially today. The local church is often too large for any individual to know many of its members. The church is often treated like a spiritual supermarket. People stop to get what they need, leave some money and do not return until they need something again. Furthermore, people often shop around for a church that can provide the best product.

This change in the character of the local church does not absolve us of our communal responsibilities. It merely poses new challenges. We continue to be responsible for the spiritual well-being of the church. We are still obliged to point out errors. We can do this through the way we raise our children, through the way we conduct business or fulfill civic duties.

We live in a world of overwhelming turmoil. Family members are alienated; there is animosity within the church; citizens distrust their governments; nations nurse longstanding grudges; and terrorism threatens us all. Still, we are responsible. We can be encouraged knowing that Jesus will be in our midst.

Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., is professor of biblical studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Readings: 
Readings: Ez 33:7-9; Ps 95:1-2, 6-9; Rom 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20
Prayer: 

• How generously are you involved in the lives of others?

• With whom must you be reconciled? What steps can you take to realize this?

• Pray for the grace to cleanse your mind and heart of all traces of vengeance.