23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A20
Many of us know the saying “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” The proverb has a murky history. Some attribute it to Confucius. Others say it was from a Japanese tradition which added the 3 monkeys in their famous triptych. While it promises a life that seems pleasant and peaceful, we can’t be blind, deaf and mute in the face of evil. That is far from what Ezekiel and Jesus were called to be as prophets.
Ezekiel was appointed as a watchman over the House of Israel. That sounds easy if it means only to sound an alarm when a troop of enemies approaches or to announce a caravan of friendly neighbors is coming. Instead he was to protect the people from evil in their midst, the difficult mission of saving his people from themselves, not only pointing out evil but also confronting the one who was bringing harm to the community, a thankless job indeed. But there is more. A prophet also offers hope, overcoming evil or sin by indicating a different and better way of acting and of being. Rather than being just a critic the prophet reveals an alternative, not just condemning but offering salvation. And Ezekiel had some skin in the game. Not speaking out, not attempting to lead another to the path, he would be held responsible for their death by God.
In the Gospel Jesus is teaching us that when someone has done us wrong, our responsibility is to try to win that person over, not focusing on the offense but on the person! And that’s hard! When we are hurt, we want to hurt back.
Well then, how do we change our default way of retribution? Look to Paul’s answer in today’s 2nd reading: LOVE! Love means not doing, not saying and not wishing evil or harm on someone else, either friend or foe. And again, that’s hard, almost super human. But, it’s possible. The Book of Tobit counsels: “Do to no one what you yourself dislike.” (Repeat.)
The world’s peoples are reeling from COVID-19, the specter of climate change, and a growing awareness of systemic racism. Those troubles are more global rather than only personal. It’s time to see, hear and speak. It also time to remember we were baptized to be prophets and not blind, deaf, and mute monkeys!
 Tobit 4:15a