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Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scriptural Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalms 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9 (8); Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

My dear encountered couples:

Responsibility for actions is what our reading from the book of the prophet Ezekiel concerns itself with today. We all have responsibilities; we all have duties. When we know what they are but do not exert any effort to carry them out, then we have no one to blame for any unpleasant consequences except ourselves. That may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is a fact of life that we must all take in and digest every day. Unfortunately, much of the world refuses to do that.

Many people refuse to admit responsibility. Taking a complaint to a large store or company and trying to find the person responsible for what your complaint is concerned about can be harder than finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. Ever bought a car that turned out to be a lemon? The salesman denies responsibility, the repairman denies responsibility, the dealer denies responsibility, Detroit and Japan denies responsibility. Without a good lawyer you just might end up having a multi—thousand-dollar lemon parked in your garage for years to come.

A sense of responsibility and dependability must be implanted in each of us during our very early years, or chances are we will never acquire one. When we let little Johnny get by with blaming little Mary for something he himself did, we are allowing seeds of irresponsibility to be planted in his character that may take root and flourish there for the rest of his life. “1 didn’t do it,” he says. “She did it.” Ever find yourself saying something like that? “Not my fault. The devil made me do it.”

That doesn’t wash with God. He knows better. When we stand before God, we will be quite aware that he knows totally and completely what it is that was done and who it was who did it. So, we had better start facing the truth ourselves and dealing with it best we can – before our time on this planet runs out.

Hell is the bemoaning of the fact forever that we should have done differently, could have done differently, but didn’t. There’s probably a sign at the entrance to hell that reads: “TIME’S UP! TOO BAD YOU DIDN’T USE IT RESPONSIBLY.”

Children should be given responsibilities around the house and checked on to see that they do them. When there are arguments, accidents, accusations, or whatever among the children, parents should do all they can to uncover the truth of who is responsible. Then it should be dealt with in such a way as to help all who are involved to learn from whatever happened and to become better because of it. We all make mistakes; we all do bad things. The saints in heaven are people who learned to admit what they did and kept trying to do better.

Ever watch Divorce Court? I’m glad I’m not the judge. I’d have to flip a coin to decide who’s telling the truth. Neither husband nor wife accepts responsibility. “It’s her fault,” he says. “It’s his fault,” she says. And if children are involved it’s always the other parent who is the lousy parent.

Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers have responsibilities to fulfill. Maybe it is a good idea to find out what they are and make a list before getting married, before having children, and then keep referring to that list - like every day.

Employers have responsibilities towards their employees, like paying them a living wage. Employees are responsible for doing a good job that’s worth their pay. What is a wonder of all wonders is when we hear of a corporation president or a chairman of the board getting paid millions a year for running a company that loses millions a year? They are not only being paid huge salaries for being irresponsible, often they are given bonuses.

Politicians, of course, are never responsible nor accountable, are they? The republicans blame the democrats, and the democrats blame the republicans. They both blame the system. Once upon a time there was at least one politician found among them who admitted his responsibility. President Harry Truman is said to have kept a sign on his desk that read, “THE BUCK STOPS HERE.”

We should all put such a sign on our desks, on our refrigerator doors, on the dashboard of our cars. We should maybe stick one next to our alarm clocks, or on our bathroom mirrors. If we see it and read it often enough, eventually it’s meaning might sink in. “I am the one responsible for all the things I do, and for all the things I’m supposed to do but don’t do.”

This is what God said to the prophet Ezekiel. “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he (the wicked man) shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.”

Ezekiel was given responsibilities and he tried to carry them out best he could. We all have responsibilities appointed to us by God. Among them, at the top of the list, are to get to know God and to love him, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Grave responsibility, heavy responsibility, most awesome responsibility! Yes, certainly, absolutely! And it is ours. There is no running away from it.

Don’t get too upset, though. It is not an impossible responsibility. God never gives a duty without also giving us a share in his wisdom, in his courage, and in his strength. God is with you all the way, in your every effort, every day. Try to keep faith in him and do your best.

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