Homily – Fr. Jenish
Perhaps we can best appreciate today’s gospel passage by recalling that it is immediately preceded by the parable of the lost sheep. In that passage, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes in search of the one stray sheep, so much does he value that lost sheep.
Today’s message is about our Christian responsibility to care for the lost sheep, straying brother or sister. It is not about punishment. But it is about an exercise of love for the one who is a sinner. Love, which knows no limits, moves one to do whatever can be done to bring back the brother or sister. The three steps that Jesus recommends, from a one-on-one conversation to a small group to “the Church” illustrates the depth of love one ought to have for the sinner. The message is ‘life at stake do all that you can to persuade to come home’.
Let us check for ourselves, when we have been hurt, seriously hurt by another, we seek some form of revenge, making the offender hurt in some way. But the gospel proposes love as a remedy.
One of the powerful examples I can think of today is St. Maria Goretti, only around 12 years when she was killed. In 1901 her poor family was sharing a farmhouse with the Serenelli family, near Nettuno Italy. Allesandro Serenelli, her friend made sexual advances to her, while she was sitting on the back step of the house and mending his shirt. She kept resisting and yelling, “No, it’s a sin. God does not want it.” Angry at her resistance, he then stabbed her fourteen times. As she was dying from her wounds 24 hours later in the hospital in Nettuno, Maria kept expressing her forgiveness for him and saying that she wanted him to be in heaven with her. Yes, for the love of Jesus I forgive him…and I want him to be with me in Paradise. His death sentence was commuted to 30 years in prison. He narrated of a dream “in which Maria gave him lilies”. On release from prison, he visited Maria’s mother, Assunta, and begged her forgiveness. She forgave him, and the next day they went to Mass together and received Holy Communion side by side. Allesandro was at St Peter’s in Rome for her canonization as a saint in 1950. He went on to become a Capuchin Franciscan brother and worked as a receptionist and gardener till he died in 1970.
Love is a concern. Love as concern is not having a nice feeling for one another. It means at times, the obligation of correcting one who has fallen away from the fold. It would mean a care-frontation. Our role of Christian responsibility is very well explained in the first reading. You . . . I have appointed watchman. (Ezekiel 33:7)
God appointed Ezekiel as a watchman for “the house of Israel,” so has he appointed each of us to watch over our “house,” family. God wants all of us to be looking out for each other.
Being a watchman can feel overwhelming. The very word watch means “to guard and protect.” In the case of parents especially, God has entrusted them with their children’s physical welfare and their eternal welfare. How can anyone ever live up to such expectations of caring children and the people around us?
Through intercession. We know we cannot control every aspect of people’s lives. There are limits to our influence. But there is no limit to the power of prayer!
Interceding is not a waste of time. We may have a very long list if we include our families and all whom we know. let us make it a point to pray for each of them by name.
How powerful are the prayers of a watchman? The answer is in Jesus. On the night before he died, he prayed for the strength to endure the cross. He prayed for the protection of his apostles. He prayed for all of us (John 17:1-26). His prayers are still being answered. So, let us imitate Jesus, the great Watchman, that we be more committed to prayer.
Secondly, this takes humility on our part. It requires a humble attempt to help them not only see their error but to also change. Let us reflect, today, upon any relationship we have that requires healing and reconciliation. Seek to follow this humble process given by our Lord and continue to remain hopeful that the grace of God will prevail.
We pray for a humble and merciful heart so that we may reconcile with one another.