23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time -by Fr. Dennis
The Second Reading today, from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, tells us to, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8). It then goes on to spell out a number of commandments which, when broken, are sins against our neighbor. Saint Paul’s own summary is sufficient to see why they are sins. He says, “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10).
One of the ways in which we are called to love one another is spelled out in the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, who instructs us, “You … I have appointed watchman” (Ez 33:7). He means by this that each of us is “our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers,” in such ways that the Lord says through him, to us, “If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he (the wicked man) shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself” (Ez 33:8-9).
The Gospel today also agrees that we are watchmen too, confident or not, and we have a responsibility to watch over, even correct our fellow brothers and sisters. We are called to spread the Gospel message in our own sphere of influence where we live and work, eat and drink and carry out life’s responsibilities. Father Thomas Dubay once ended a layperson’s retreat with “Proclaim this Message! Let each of us, in our own vocation; proclaim this message in whatever way it falls to us even to children. People are perishing for lack of knowledge!'” (Hos 4:5). What is said of priests in the Old Testament, he said is true about priests in the New Testament and parents too! and catechists too!” This can be extended to include all of us.
A few weeks ago, during the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time, in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, there was a reading from a Letter Attributed to Barnabas who traveled with Saint Paul. He preached the Gospel like all the rest. He had his own particular style. However, he addresses the same teachings as we see above, but just in different words, or with the use of different examples. He calls it living the “way of light.” In the excerpt that follows, you can see that his teaching and that of Saint Paul’s and Ezekiel’s sort of crisscrosses a few times.
Consider now the way of light; any man who is bent on reaching his appointed goal must be very careful in all he does. Now these are the directions that have been given to us for this journey: love your Creator; reverence your Maker; give glory to him who redeemed you when you were dead; be single-minded but rich in spiritual treasure; avoid those who travel down death’s highway; hate whatever is displeasing to God; detest all hypocritical pretense; do not abandon God’s commandments. Do not put on airs, but be modest whatever you do; claim no credit for yourself. Plot no evil against your neighbor, and do not give pride an entrance into your heart.
Love your neighbor more than your own life. Do not kill an unborn child through abortion, nor destroy it after birth. Do not refrain from chastising son or daughter, but bring them up from childhood in the fear of the Lord. Do not set your heart on what belongs to your neighbor and do not give in to greed. Do not associate with the arrogant but cultivate those who are humble and virtuous.
Accept as a blessing whatever comes your way in the knowledge that nothing ever happens without God’s concurrence. Avoid duplicity in thought or in word, for such deception is a deadly snare.
Share with your neighbor whatever you have, and do not say of anything, this is mine. If you both share an imperishable treasure, how much more must you share what is perishable. Do not be hasty in speech; the mouth is a deadly snare. For your soul’s good, make every effort to live chastely. Do not hold out your hand for what you can get, only to withdraw it when it comes to giving. Cherish as the apple of your eye anyone who speaks to you of the word of the Lord.
Night and day you will bear in mind the hour, of judgment; every day you will seek out the company of God’s faithful, either by preaching the word, earnestly exhorting them, ever considering how you can save souls by your eloquence, or else by working with your hands to make reparation for your past sins.
Never hesitate to give, and when you do give, never grumble; then you will know the one who will repay you. Preserve the traditions you have received, adding nothing and taking nothing away. The evildoer will ever be hateful to you. Be fair in your judgments. Never stir up dissension, but act as peacemaker and reconcile the quarrelsome. Confess your sins, and do not begin to pray with a guilty conscience.
Such then is the way of light.
Saint Barnabas was not one of the original disciples of Jesus. We do not hear of him until the Acts of the Apostles, after the Resurrection. He was a cousin of Saint Mark (see Col 4:10) who was Saint Peter’s “interpreter,” a view found in other patristic writers. Saint Barnabas accompanied Saint Mark and Saint Paul on a missionary journey (see Acts 12:25; 13:3; 15:36-39); but not, however, until after his conversion. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that, “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all” (Acts 4:33). It was from this that, “Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles” (Acts 4:36-37).
Saint Barnabas heard the “way of light” from the lips of the Apostles who, in turn, had heard this from the lips of Jesus. By hearing, accepting and willingly undergoing and experiencing the conversion necessary for him to migrate from Judaism to Christianity, he built the foundation necessary to be able to proclaim the same message in his own words, which he was able to share with us today. The same “way of light.”
We are called to really love each other. Accordingly, we now must be willing to proclaim, instruct and share this message with others. We must, as Father Dubay put it, “”Proclaim This Message! Let each of us, in our own vocation; proclaim this message in whatever way it falls to us even to children.” Maybe we can add, “especially to our children!”
copyright 2005 Fr. Dennis