23rd Sunday Year A
September 7, 2014


One of the goals of the ASEAN region, all ten countries that make it up, is to provide “a caring community.” Well, they still have a few months, before the AEC (Asean Economic Community) goes into full operation in the year 2015. By any standard, this is more than just a nice phrase to describe one of the three pillars of the ASEAN dream – PEOPLE ( in addition to PROSPERITY and PEACE)!

But of course, given the three readings in today’s liturgy, it is easy to realize that it is not just a pipe dream of ASEAN, but a command from the Lord, repeated not twice, but thrice, in all three readings.

Ezekiel gives the opening salvo. We are all meant to be “watchmen (or guardians) for the house of Israel.” As watchmen, we are expected to warn, admonish, counsel, or otherwise mentor others who might be straying off the beaten track.

St. Paul, writing to the Romans, echoes the same call to responsibility: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” for “love is the fulfilling of the law.”

But the Lord goes notches higher in this solicitude for others in his call to engage in fraternal correction and to convocation in God’s name.

I don’t mean to douse cold water on ASEAN’s big dream, but the call to be a caring community, whilst laudable and doable, is a most difficult and daunting challenge in our postmodern times. It was most difficult, then – during Biblical times – as it is now. The, it was the Philistines who terrorized the Israelites. Now, it is the modern-day terrorists and free-thinkers and cultists who make life difficult for mainstream Christians who only want to live in peace.

The easiest thing to do then – as now – is to go the way of indifference and insouciance … to be totally uncaring and to numb oneself into behaving like whatever one does will come to naught and will produce no good results whatsoever. This is what most educated Filipinos do in our times. They have lost faith in the electoral process and so refuse to go out and vote anymore. They have resigned themselves to believing that, after all, the uneducated and showbiz crazed hoi polloi will put the same nincompoops (inutile, corrupt and incompetent, but eminently popular) into the top offices of the land. They have given up the dream of a bunch of honorable statesmen who would still hold the reins of power, instead of electing what turns out to be nothing more than honorable thieves who only revel in honorific titles.

Today, like in the times of Ezekiel, as in the times of the Lord and of Paul, we are reminded by God that “a caring community” is not just a dream of ASEAN, but a standing command from no less than Him. He calls us to responsibility. He beckons us to genuine caring and love that is meant to be given at all costs, for “love does no evil to the neighbor.” He rouses us to shun impatience and rash judgment, to value fraternal correction, and also to observe due process, and not to take the law into our hands. “If he doesn’t listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

But all this would not only be difficult and most challenging. It would also be close to impossible, were it not for the promise the Lord proffers to us today – the promise of His abiding, solicitous and loving presence: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Thank you, Lord, for your command and your consoling promise!