19th Week, Wednesday, Aug 12

Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22 / Matthew 18:15-20
Ezekiel has a vision of Jerusalem: “Only those who mourn will be saved. ”

Five years after arriving in Babylon, Ezekiel is returned to Jerusalem in a vision. He finds himself beside the Temple. What he sees may have been actual or symbolic. In any event, the meaning is clear: He sees a breakdown of the religion of Israel.
Even the Temple is desecrated by pagan worship. At this point a man dressed in linen— the fabric worn by priests and those who serve God in heaven— appears flanked by three men on his right and three men on his left. Then a voice instructs the man in linen to mark the foreheads of those who grieve the breakdown of religion. Only those who mourn its breakdown will be saved; the rest will be destroyed. How much do we grieve the breakdown of religion in the modern world?
Do we pray for the return of faith to the world? “One person with belief is equal to the force of ninety-nine who have only interests.” John Stuart Mills
When we read the 1st reading and thought about it, we may wonder what kind of message is there in it. In fact, what we read may make us grimace as we hear words like "strike", "show neither pity nor mercy to old men, young men, virgins, children, women, kill and exterminate them all". Those were words from God! And there is even more: Defile the Temple, fill the courts with corpses, and go. And then the six men went out and hacked their way through the city. That really sounds gruesome. But we have to remember that it belongs to the genre of apocalyptic language where images are bold and vivid and the language of strong and vindictive.

The point about apocalyptic language is that it is time for judgement where the good and bad are separated and the good is vindicated and the bad is punished. Hence, there was a man in white with a scribe's ink horn in his belt and he was instructed to mark a cross on the foreheads of those who deplore and disapprove of all the filth committed. On the other hand, the message of the Good News is about salvation and the gospel passages urges us to be instruments of reconciliation.

Certainly, we have to deplore and disapprove of sin and wrong doing. But at the same time we cannot just sit by and wait for the Lord to save us and wait for those wrong doers to be condemned.

Jesus came to seek and save what was lost. If we truly believe that we will be saved and vindicated, then we too would want to share this gift of salvation with others. May we continue to strive for reconciliation and work for the salvation of others as well as for ourselves.
Wednesday August 12

Wednesday of 19th Week of Ordinary Time


The holiness of God can stand no evil, as Ezekiel proclaims to an unfaithful people; only those marked with the sign of God, those personally responding to his offer of salvation, will be spared. And yet, this holy God is also a forgiving God, as we have all experienced. What would we do without forgiveness?
What if my brother or sister goes astray? One of the most difficult and delicate tasks is to bring a brother or sister back when he or she errs. It is a duty, but one that requires courage and at the same time much tact, the right moment and the right disposition on both sides. It is my concern, because he or she is my brother or sister, vulnerable as I am, and wounded.

Opening Prayer
God of mercy and compassion,
your Son Jesus Christ has brought us together
as a community of sinners
that knows that you have pardoned us.
When our weaknesses threaten our unity,
remind us of our responsibility for one another.
Let your unifying Spirit give us the strength
to care for one another
and to do all we can to remain
a living, forgiving and welcoming community
where we keep meeting in the name of Jesus,
our Lord, now and for ever.

Punishment for the sinful Israelites was to be definitive and widespread. Only those marked were to be spared, the faithful ones who lamented the widespread abandonment of the Lord. This is accompanied by the glory of the Lord leaving the temple area and carried aloft by the cherubim. It is a picture of desolation and immense loss.
In the church, serious effort is made to save everyone who is in danger of exclusion. On both a personal and communal level, there are obstinate and hostile souls. Their failure to be in accord with the church merits exclusion and excommunication. But this is to be a last measure, taken only after the utilization of established means to solve the problem have been exhausted.
Most of us wince at the thought of any widespread elimination of people. Part of that is due to the fact that in our lifetime we have seen more than enough extermination of people, most of them innocent of any wrongdoing. We remain deeply attached to the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. We want to do all that we can before any censure, automatic or imposed, falls upon someone. Yet, in the Gospel today, the steps are clearly outlined, to make contrition possible.
Lord, touch the hearts of serious wrongdoers. And give us a deep sense of concern for their spiritual well-being.

Points to Ponder
God’s punishment in the Old Testament
Forgiveness: a central theme in the New Testament
Understanding excommunication as a last resort

– For all those God has entrusted to one another: our Christian families, our towns and cities, people who work together, and all our communities, that love may inspire us to deal with one another with frankful tact and respect, we pray:
– For all of us, that we may believe in the goodness of each person and be patient with one another, we pray:
– For our communities, that we may often pray together in the name of Jesus for the needs of the world and the Church, for Christ assures us that our prayer will be heard, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
God our Father,
you bring together at the table of your Son
the weak with the strong, the sick with the healthy.
Let your Son fill us here
with the fullness of his presence
that we may accept one another
to live with one another in peace and friendship.
We offer you our good will
and ask you for the strength
to welcome each other in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer after Communion
God our Father,
your Son Jesus has been in our midst
and he has strengthened us with his body and blood.
He made our wounds of sin his wounds and healed them.
Let the wounds of our brothers and sisters
become ours, their joys our happiness.
Let your Son teach us the art
of bringing those who err back to you
and into our communities
without embittering or humiliating them,
without any feeling of superiority,
but simply because they are our brothers and sisters
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

We know we are responsible for one another. Our community should be a place where we can speak freely to one another and help those in trouble to keep them in the community or to win them back. May God give you this openness and courage, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.