Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ezekiel 34:1-11; Matthew 20:1-16)
Every fall, priests in their daily office or prayer read a long commentary on today’s first reading. St. Augustine wrote the commentary and intended it for parish priests. His concern is priests’ preoccupation for their own welfare and disregard for their people’s. He says, for example, that pastors too often fear to give offense by refusing to admonish the people to live holy lives. Ezekiel, however, has political not religious leaders in mind in his writing.
In ancient Israel the prophets served as correctives of the kings. They were the country’s moral conscience who defined for rulers the will of God. The prophets kept faith in the public square and considered the temple a primary work of the state.
Today we do not see such a religious-political arrangement as helpful for western societies. There are just too many faith traditions as well as a strong secular force in most countries to call for an established religion. Nevertheless, we should not accept too great a wall between Church and state. Religious values have profound moral content that should inform governmental policies. To name one, it is wrong to give permission to take away human life as is done in abortion and assisted suicide. Sooner or later, these wrongful policies will take their toll on the people’s well-being. We can be grateful that Catholic bishops have taken their stand on these and other social issues.