[3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, Sept 7, 2014 / Ezek 33:7-9,
Ps 95:1-2, 6-7b, 7c-9, Rom 13:8-10, Matt 18:15-20]
In the Church document Gaudium et Spes there is a strong call for all Christians to assume more responsibility for building the Kingdom in the world of today. This responsibility is reflected in the first reading where Ezekiel is appointed as watchman for his people, called to be vigilant and watch out, to be able to warn the citizens of impending danger. He is called to be a prophetic voice. St Gregory the Great (whose name in Greek means vigilance) compares the prophet to a watchman. Each Christian is called to have a prophetic voice, to watch out and speak out for justice and truth. By virtue of our baptism we all share in the prophetic mission of Christ and his Church. We are called to be active voices.
The Gospel encourages us to be responsible and to speak out against the sins of our brother. If he does not listen we are to seek help. This paves the way for what is known as the right of association, that when we are united together we have a stronger voice. Associations of like-minded people exist in the fields of social justice and human rights. In today’s reflection I would like to emphasize the importance for the Church and for all men and women of good will to be a prophetic voice in the field of bioethics. Some claim that the Church should not delve into issues of bioethics because the Bible does not talk about them. How wrong this is! The whole of Sacred Scripture is concerned about the gift of life (bios) and how we should act and behave morally (ethics) towards one another.
In his letter to the Romans, St Paul lists some precepts of the law one of which is: “You shall not kill.” This commandment is summed up in the appeal: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Our smallest neighbor is the human embryo, so small that he or she is easy to step on and ignore. Today’s responsible and prophetic Christian voice must continue to announce, “Do not kill.” Do not kill unborn human life, do not destroy human embryos in research, do not perform IVF [in vitro fertilization]. What must be ensured in all of scientific research is the respect for the dignity of human life. In his letter on the Gospel of Life, Evangelium vitae, Pope John Paul II wrote: “The human embryo must be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception” (Evangelium vitae 60). The prophetic voice of the Church is much weakened when we take little effort to be informed about issues of life and death. Many Christians today would wrongly be in favor of IVF for example without really knowing what is involved and not having taken the time or trouble to read what the Church teaches on the subject. This is irresponsible. If a person was in an operating theatre as a bystander and was asked by the surgeon in a critical moment of the operation if he should cut this structure or not, only a foolhardy spectator would answer without having studied well the matter in question. For similar matters of life and death such as abortion, cloning, embryo research and euthanasia it is becoming increasingly fashionable to give opinions on such lofty and serious matters. It is amazing how many people would be in favor of IVF without understanding the technique and its dangers. Many would even have strong opinions against the teaching of the Church without even having read what she says!
We need to take care and be vigilant. Many times we fall asleep in our prophetic responsibility. Today’s expression: “To fall asleep on watch,” comes from the military. Often on night duty a soldier would be on guard, watching out for the enemy. He has to stay awake otherwise lives could be lost. In the society of today, each of us is called to be watchmen and watchwomen. In the battle for a culture of life we can speak out together, join associations, form our consciences and be well informed about important social and political issues. As watchmen we cannot fall asleep. If we remain sleeping many more innocent lives will continue to be lost. Let us resolve to be more active, to speak out more in defense of innocent life.