First Reading: Ezk 33:7-9; Psalm: 95. R. v. 7d, 8a; Second Reading: Rm 13:8-10; Gospel: Mt 18:15-20



Seeing Afar Off and being Warned of Future Danger |

‘Thus says the Lord: “You, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel.’” (Ezk 33:7).

The city of ancient Israel was susceptible to war and attack by enemies outside the city. As a result, watchmen (sentinels) were employed to watch over the city from an elevated watchtower mounted in a bird’s-eye view location adjacent the city. The duty of a watchman who kept guard day and night was very sensitive and vital to the safety and survival of the people of the city. From the watchtower, a watchman could see clearly any approaching threat to the city to raise alarm and warn the people of any imminent danger. If a watchman fell short of his duty and the city was attacked, he would be held complicit in the attack and culpable of a crime with dire consequences. This makes the watchman’s duty a very delicate one.

When the Lord called and commissioned the prophet Ezekiel by feeding him with the scroll; he sent him to be his oracle to the house of Israel (Ezk 3:1). The Lord then said to him, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” (Ezk 3:17; 33:7). Thenceforth, Ezekiel became the spiritual watchman of the people of Israel. This was at a time when the house of Israel wallowed in their iniquity. Hence, the Lord warned Ezekiel that if he issued a sentence on the wicked and the prophet failed to raise this alarm or speak about it; that wicked man shall die but the prophet Ezekiel shall be held culpable for his blood. But if the prophet warned the wicked and the wicked remained unrepentant; the prophet shall not be held accountable for the death of the wicked.

This prophetic mission of Ezekiel was not a child’s play because it became the hallmark of his entire prophetic life even when this mission posed a threat to his own life. Ezekiel would dare not be quiet on matters pertaining to the salvation of the wicked else their blood would be on his hands and he would face the dire consequences of that huge negligence. Jesus reminds us in the gospel of today that every disciple of the faith shares in this prophetic mission of Ezekiel. We are watchmen or sentinels called to look out for the safety and well-being of any straying neighbour through love and reconciliation else we become guilty of the sins of complicity and negligence.

Sometimes, we fail to believe in our connectedness until we find ourselves in similar unfortunate situations. But we do not have to wait to be in trouble in order to find a common ground. We do not have to wait for another pandemic for us to understand that to survive and live, we need to cooperate and stick together. And we do not need to celebrate a funeral for us to come together as one Christian community. Accidental situations like this and our conditional reaction to them is not an authentic way of living. But it could be a hard reminder of how vulnerable we can be when we choose the life of independence over communal life; and a humble reminder of how the strength of unity outweighs our vulnerability. When we think that we do not need each other to live fully, perhaps we should have a rethink; it could be pride speaking in us. Self-love is good. But love shared is more beautiful and fulfilling.

The gospel of today calls us to build a united community. As sentinels, we need to be worried when gossip, hatred, and unforgiveness threaten our unity. These vices are enemies without that we need to watch out for and guard against else they tear us apart. As Jesus admonishes, we need to seek reconciliation to save a straying neighbour. And we need to make sincere effort to make this happen. But what if we are that straying neighbour? Because at times it is not that we do not have what it takes to build but it is that we have chosen to destroy. It is not that we are not offered enough love but it is that we preferred to hate. And it is not that people don’t ask our forgiveness but it is that we have chosen to be hard and unforgiving. Sometimes we are the ones making life difficult for others. So today, it is not so much about whether that brother or sister has asked our forgiveness as it is about our willingness to forgive.

Sometimes, our offenders are remorseful and ready to reconcile but we are so very indisposed to forgive. A neighbour must not go through the three dimensional reconciliatory approach stipulated by Jesus before that neighbour is forgiven. Our willingness to forgive even before a neighbour asks our forgiveness makes us sentinels of love. When we are agents of reconciliation, we become sentinels issuing God’s warning of love to a neighbour to return back to the fold to avert the impending punishment of hate and unforgiveness. But when we choose not to forgive, we would face the dire consequences of that choice.

One other way to be good sentinels is to speak the truth to a straying neighbour. Because sometimes we are scared to tell our friends or spouse the truth they need to know because we do not want to hurt their feelings. Just as the Lord warned the prophet Ezekiel, we risk facing the punishment of negligence when we are quiet about the things that matter. As Martin Luther King Jr rightly said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” It could also be the case that some of us are reticent in challenging the despicable attitudes of our children especially when these attitudes become central to the formation of their character. When any harm comes to them as a result, our indifference and negligence would definitely become our judge.

As St Paul exhorts us in the second reading, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Love becomes visible when we watch out for the good of one another; when we seek to win back a straying neighbour through reconciliation; and when we choose to forgive to maintain our togetherness in love. Love is the watchtower of every good sentinel. It gives us a bird’s-eye view to see, understand, and make wise decisions to avert any impending disaster that will bring us harm. Love is the hallmark of every true sentinel.


Lord Jesus, may we not relent in supporting one another as good sentinels called to love and to reconcile. Amen.


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