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Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.

The Word This Week

“No man is an island...” How true this is for those who follow Christ: each of us has responsibilities towards each other, based on our ‘debt of mutual love’. When we see wickedness and wrongdoing, then because of our privileged position of following the Lord Jesus, we have a duty to speak out. This will not always be easy - remember the prophet Jeremiah last week - but this was the mission of the Lord Jesus himself, and as his followers, it is our mission too. As with everything, love is ‘the answer to every one of the commandments.’

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-9.

Today another great prophet outlines for us the prophet’s mission: to speak the words of the Lord, whether heeded or not. This is the burden and reward of prophecy. The reading is very clear, and should not be difficult to proclaim. The first line of God’s message to Ezekiel is easy to pass over, but is quite significant: ‘I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel’. Think about a sentry’s tasks: to warn of the approach of danger or threat to the city. Ezekiel’s word from God says that a prophet is to act as a guard over the lives of God’s people. The reader is given two contrasting ideas - the prophet failing in his task, and the prophet fulfilling his task; in your reading, allow the two ideas to be clearly contrasted, pausing between them.


Second Reading: Romans 13:8-10.

It is wonderful how in the complex prose of Saint Paul’s letters, we occasionally get a very simple, single idea comes through strongly: such a passage appears today. All Paul is talking about is Love: the word appears four times in the reading, each one of them significant and to be stressed. The first sentence is a delightful expression: pause after ‘avoid getting into debt...’, so that this part can be taken at face value, before concluding with the punch-line: ‘...except the debt of mutual love.’ The second sentence, when you think about it, is quite momentous: Paul is saying that all our obligations, everything God expects of us, is fulfilled if we simply love our fellow men and women - how simple and yet how difficult this is ! Think for a while about this simple sentence, and then allow your thoughts to come through in your reading. The list of commandments is just that - a list (as revealed by the ‘throwaway’ ‘...and so on..’). The ‘single command’ is the most important line in the reading - thump it out: ‘You  must love your neighbour as yourself’. Paul is so convinced of the importance of this concept that these words are deliberately simple and emphatic - he’s very much trying to persuade his listeners. You, as his mouthpiece, must do the same today.


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