It is a beautiful September day. Everyone knows how beautiful it is and even the National Weather Office lets you know to go out and enjoy the day. You decide it is another day to celebrate the wonders of September. But then you hear one man on the radio telling you that trouble is coming, be prepared for a disaster. The government says all is well, this one man on the radio says to batten down the hatches, prepare for a monster storm. To whom are you going to pay attention?
Well the situation I brought up to you actually happened and many of the older generation may remember. My parents at the time would have been teen agers. It was the famous 1938 Hurricane. The National Weather Office heads decided that despite one of its members indicating that their current predictions were wrong, the office head decided to ignore his words and his warning that a hurricane was not going to move out to sea as they usually did but was going to barrel down into Long Island, New York and New England like a bowling ball on its way to a strike.
A lone weather forecaster for 590AM in Boston which then was called WEEI, recognized what that same lone member of the National Weather Office saw. This storm was headed right for New England. It is to this day listed as one of the most dangerous storms to the NorthEast, the only storm considered more dangerous at that time hit in 1654. ("1938 New England Hurricane"; Wikipedia)
Whom do you hold responsible if your house was destroyed. Whom do you praise for sounding the warning.
This is a similar question as what we see portrayed in our first reading. This is the time of Ezekiel the Prophet. It is the early days of the sixth century BC. Israel as a political entity was conquered and eliminated as a political state in the previous century. It will not exist again for almost three thousand years in 1948. The nation of Judah where the capital city is Jerusalem is viciously corrupt. The Lord calls Ezekiel to be the sentinel. Like the lone weatherman who warned the people that a terribly destructive storm was coming, so is Ezekiel called to be the sentinel to warn Judah that their corruption must end or great destruction will come upon them. Meanwhile, the leaders are telling everyone that all is fine and there is peace and security.
The Lord decided that He himself would shepherd His people and He appointed Ezekiel as His spokesman. This is because the leaders have decided to serve themselves. They are engaged in practicing idolatry and Ezekiel warned them that their days are numbered.
So Ezekiel becomes the one who speaks for the Lord to shepherd his people. He follows the instructions of the Lord and does things like packs up his things and leaves the city, so that the people say to themselves “The Prophet just left the city, that may not be a good sign.”
He does other actions to warn the people to turn to the Lord and heed his truth. Remember, he will have resistance from the professionals who will tell the people ignore the prophet for we will tell you the truth and we know how you should live your lives.
This becomes an interesting message for us in our time.
We are the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, we literally have a calling to be the prophets. This is the reason why despite calls to the contrary, our morality cannot change otherwise we will no longer be the prophet. We will no longer speak for the Lord, we will no longer warn the people like the Sentinel and we will be held responsible for when things go wrong.
Right now we are living in a time in which people have been demanding that the Catholic Church change her teachings and update them to be like everyone else. Whether it includes our teaching on marriage, abortion, contraception, mortal and venial sin, even the sacraments, prayer, holiness, sainthood, salvation and so much more. All these people are calling us to change and even some are powerful members of our society. A standing US Congressman at the time stood outside the Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston and demanded the Church change its teachings on gay marriage.
But our purpose is to be people who speak for Christ and lead people to accept Christ as their shepherd. We are really here to lead people to know Christ in His fullness and that is a bigger message than simply focusing on morality. It is about offering ourselves to Christ with all our struggles and difficulties and asking Him to show us how to live as the prophets he called us to be and teaching others to do the same. Just like Ezekiel and the Old Testament prophets did.
This is because we as the Church have a calling to be the sentinels as does Ezekiel. Again, we are here to speak for Christ. St. John Chrysostom teaches that our role is bigger than that of Ezekiel because we have to speak to the whole world whereas Ezekiel only had to speak to the houses of Judah and Israel.
But if we do not speak, who will? Many will tell us that we need to be like the other churches, but that admonition historically never was a good idea. For example, there is a fascinating article in this month’s Christianity Today which by the way is a Christian, but not a Catholic publication that points out that many churches in the United States prior to the Civil War particularly in the South took an official stand in support of slavery. The Catholic Church officially condemned slavery before Christopher Columbus’ first journey, but even here in the US there were some Catholics who as in those other churches still practiced it. According to the Catholic News Agency, even some US bishops turned a blind eye to slavery. There is a reason why Church teaching must not be so quickly dismissed by anyone, including bishops.
We have a call to be sentinels to the world, giving a great message that those who seek Christ find him, but those who reject Christ have nothing to guide them to the peace they seek. They cannot find peace, we can, by bringing Christ into our lives, our homes and our families.
Those people who listened to that one lone weather reporter and heeded his warning may have been protected from total disaster. Those who listened to established authorities were not. We have to speak for Christ by living his teachings in the Gospel and in the Church not to condemn others, but to lead others to Christ. If we do, Christ will reward us if we don’t many will turn to us why did you not teach us?