Minding Others
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

“Mind your own business,” is a saying I learned from my American mentors. I learned the lesson the hard way. Among Filipinos, a polite way of greeting somebody that one meets along the way is, “Where are you going?” Among us Filipinos, it does not really need an answer. It is enough for the person to say vaguely, “There.” It is actually a polite way of acknowledging the person’s presence. I made the mistake of greeting my American teacher this way and I got his annoyed response, “It’s none of your business.”

Action starter: Accept correction with humility and give correction with charity.

When and to what extent do we mind another person’s business? This question has been asked by Cain when God asked him where his murdered brother was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Indeed when do we become our brother’s keeper? Related to this question is what the scribe asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Instead of defining the legal parameters of the word “neighbor”, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A total stranger became his brother’s keeper. He even considered an enemy as his neighbor.

This Sunday’s readings remind us of our responsibility for one another. In the first, God appoints Ezekiel as Israel’s watchman (Ez. 33:7). He was chosen to be the lookout who will sound the alarm and the warning to his own people. As Ezekiel and many prophets found out, it was a thankless job. Many people do not want to listen to the warnings of the prophet. People do not want prophets minding their affairs and sinful ways. Still the prophet must speak up and give voice to God’s warning. It is his responsibility.

In the second reading. St. Paul joins the rabbinical debate about what really is law of all laws. What is the most basic law on which all others hinge. His answer is, “If you love others, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law” (Rom.13:10). In the Gospel, such love for the neighbor shows itself in gentle brotherly correction. Caring for the neighbor also means pointing out in charity those matters that cause harm to the community. Of course correction is not easily received but one must bear in mind that its purpose is not to put the other person down but to promote the good of the whole community (Mt. 18:17).

If a person doesn’t care for the welfare of the community, his attitude will be expressed by, “Never mind” or “Forget it”. Not caring is a form of forgetfulness. To care for somebody is to put him or her in your mind. It is to mind others. Minding is an expression of a sense of duty, or a sense of responsibility and most especially, a sense of love.

Take a few cases. Do we mind if a toddler is crossing a busy street or is dangerously near the edge of a tall building? Do we mind if garbage piles up on the streets? Do we mind if crimes are increasing in our neighborhood? Do we mind if the armed conflict around us brings about mass evacuations and the consequent hunger, disease, and homelessness?

Do we mind or do we say, “Never mind, it is none of my business.” It is sometimes necessary for God to send us “minders” like Ezekiel who will wake us up from out lethargy and forgetfulness. Next time somebody corrects us or reminds, perhaps we should say, “Thank you” rather that react with hostility.