“Then the Lord asked Cain,
‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He answered, ‘I do not know.
Am I my brother’s keeper?’” Genesis 4:9
We often struggle in knowing how much we should intervene in the lives of others. On one level we may believe that everyone should be independent, having the freedom to live their own lives and make their own decisions, unencumbered by others. Yet, when we witness those we know and love make choices that gravely harm themselves – their health, or worse, their soul – we feel compelled to do something. In the quote above from Genesis, Cain relinquishes the responsibility of being a true brother to Abel; of course, we know out of jealousy he had taken Abel’s life and is now trying to hide from God. Today’s readings remind us that we do have a responsibility to encourage others to follow pathways of righteousness in their lives.
In the first reading from Ezekiel 33:7-9, Ezekiel is charged with being a watchman for the Israelites. If he refuses to confront the evildoers and they persist in their wayward ways, not only will they themselves be punished, but the prophet will also be reprimanded for not speaking out.
In the Gospel from Matthew 18:15-20, we are called to directly confront those who have sinned against us. If they do not listen, then we can call witnesses. If that fails, then the church is to be involved. This is the second occurrence of the word “church” in the Gospels, the other being in the 16th chapter also of Matthew. Our purpose for reaching out to those who have fallen in error is to bring them back to their life of faith and wholeness in Christ. The second reading from Romans 13:8-10 best sums this up by reminding us that all of the commandments are fulfilled when we love our neighbor as our self. “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)
May the Holy Spirit guide us to know when to be silent and when to speak out to a brother or sister in need of guidance.