Inside the Readings

The lot of the prophet is not a pleasant one. Ezekiel is

appointed guardian over the House of Israel. He is to be God’s

mouthpiece, announcing exactly what God wishes. If he fails

to do so, Ezekiel himself will be responsible for what becomes

of the people of God. Ezekiel’s prophetic powers come upon

him as he and many of the Israelites are in exile in Babylon. In

this oracle, he proclaims on behalf of God that God takes no

pleasure in the death of the wicked. God would much prefer

that all turn from evil and do what is just and right. But in

order for repentance to occur, the prophet must first announce

a warning about the dire consequences of sin. As is seen in all

three of today’s readings, authority is a responsibility not to be

taken lightly.

Chapter 13 in Paul’s Letter to the Romans addresses

how the Roman faithful are to respond to authority—both civil

and divine. Ultimately, no one has power or authority unless

God has granted it to him or her. In response to legitimate

authority, believers are to fulfill the law. As Paul notes, the

one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

The Gospel reading also speaks of love of neighbor,

but Matthew’s text is directed to the neighbor who is a

member of the church. Jesus outlines how one should

approach a brother or sister who has wronged them. The first

step is least invasive and allows the offender an opportunity to

repent without public embarrassment. If the offender does not

listen, others are called to witness to the offense. Finally, the

church (Matthew’s preferred term for his community of

believers) is called in. If the offender does not listen, he or she

is to be cast out. While this last step sounds harsh, it actually

demotes the offender to the status of tax collector or Gentile.

Since whenever two or three believers gather in his name

Jesus is effectively in their presence, the responsibilities of the

members of the church are not to be taken lightly.