Study: When was a time when I failed to speak up? When was a time I failed to listen?
Pray: Call upon the Lord for the wisdom to know when to speak and when to take heart to the words of another.
Serve: Is there someone in my life right now that I am called to speak to? Or listen to?
Do you remember the Aesop’s fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” that we used to hear as children? It is a simple yet profound tale. A young boy is given the responsibility to watch over the animals in the event of an attack from the wolves. Bored of his duties he calls out “Wolf!” and laughs as the area villagers come running.
Delighted with his game the boy cries “Wolf!” a few more times, each time getting the attention of the people. Finally disgusted with his actions they no longer respond, even when a real wolf shows up and attacks the child; his failure to keep watch prevented his message from being heard.
In the first reading today Ezekiel says that being a prophet is a lot like being a watchman. The watchman was responsible for protecting the people from bandits and wild animals. The watchman was required to stay alert, remaining vigilant and ready to call out in a moment’s notice should danger arise.
If danger came, and the watchman failed to alert the people, then the watchman was at fault. But if the watchman called the alarm and no one came, then the people were at fault. Simply put, if the watchman does his duty and no one comes, then those who hear the warning and fail to respond are held accountable.
Likewise, anyone who hears a word of encouragement or guidance and fails to respond is also accountable. Ezekiel, the Psalm, and the Gospel today all point out that there are times when we must open our hearts to messages that we may not want to hear. We may be tempted to “harden our hearts.”
Let’s face it. No one wants to be told what to do. No one wants to be disciplined or chastised; we love our freedom and independence too much for that! Yet there are times when the Church is empowered to keep watch, lest members of the community drift into choices and actions which are harmful and destructive.
This is not easy! The scriptures today alert us to the fact that there are moments when we may be asked to either give or receive a hard word out of love. We might have to give it – to help another from making a mistake. We might have to receive it – and allow another to help us from falling into trouble. Keeping watch is never easy, but without the support of each other, we run the risk of a far greater harm.
Note: This post was first published on September 4, 2017.