Sunday, September 7, 2014

Responding to sin

Today's readings provide us with the answer to one question. How do we respond to sin? The readings break the answer into two parts.

The gospel has us look at sins against ourselves. The ones we feel the most. We are constantly praying, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." But besides forgive, what more should we do?

The gospel says that the first step must always be to talk one on one with the person. This may be the hardest. Our natural tendency is to run to the closest sympathetic ear. Only when the person refuses to hear us does the gospel give us permission to go talk to others about it.

This kind of self control is not easy. It presumes a step previous to talking to the person. It presumes prayer, spending time in silence with God to allow God to clarify and purify. When we have been sinned against we need the Holy Spirit to clarify our thinking process. Every relationship has two sides.

We also need God to purify our hearts. Anger is not an emotion to be avoid but we do need to deal with it appropriately.

Then and only then can we take the first step in the gospel and if necessary the second and third, up to excommunication of the person.

But how do we deal the sin of others if it isn't particularly directed at us? For that answer we look to the first reading.

Is it really possible for me to go to hell because of someone else's sin? The answer is yes. On the day of baptism, the priest or deacon anoints the newly baptized with the words, "as Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may you live as a member of his body..." We each have a share in the prophetic ministry. To be a prophet is not to be a fortune-teller. To be a prophet is to be a spokesperson calling people back to God.

God tells Ezekiel he has set him as a watchman. The watchman warns others. We are all watchman for each other. When we see someone headed down the wrong path we have a moral obligation to warn them. If they choose to ignore the warning, the blame lies solely with them. But if we say nothing, the blame is also ours. We forget that sins of omission can be mortal as well. And the worst lie we can tell ourselves is that the reason we are not saying anything is because we love them and don't want to hurt them. That is merely a rationalization we use for our own cowardice. Love is always truthful. And sometimes we have to speak painful truth. We should always do it as gently as possible but we cannot avoid.

If you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.