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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel was one of the major prophets. He lived in the sixth century BC and was a priest who was attached to the temple staff in Jerusalem. He was taken into captivity by the Babylonians when Jerusalem fell in 597 BC. The book  of Ezekiel can be divided into three sections: prophecies against Judah and Jerusalem, prophecies against foreign nations and lastly prophecies of hope and salvation, the latter giving comfort to the exiles. The book has colourful imagery, which had a great influence on the Book of the Apocalypse.

Ezekiel is described by God as a “sentry.” He had a responsibility to warn those in his community who were doing evil. He would actually be held to account if he did not do so. This is echoed in today’s gospel reading. Very probably this is a reference to problems in Matthew’s community. His gospel was written in about the year 80 AD when the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. Though his is the most Jewish of the gospels there were gentile converts as well. Tensions had arisen between Judaism and Christianity. The community was becoming more settled in an urban environment and the disciples were no longer necessarily poor. False prophets were appearing and the changes that had occurred would have brought about their own problems. It was important therefore to intervene where wrong was being done. We have seen in our own day how one person can infect a whole nation. We pray that there will be brave sentries like Ezekiel to confront them.