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DOES THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET HAVE A MESSAGE FOR US?

Father Francis's picture
Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Ez. 12:1-12 & Mt. 18:21-19:1

When the Lord called Ezekiel to be His prophet, He warned him that the people were a rebellious, impudent and stubborn nation. Ezekiel continually warned the people about their characteristics but they paid no more attention to him than they had to earlier prophets. To impress upon them the need for repentance, Yahweh instructed Ezekiel to perform a symbolic public act which everyone would see.

When the people failed to understand the message and significance of Ezekiel's pantomime, God told the prophet to interpret his actions for them. He did so by describing a prince of Jerusalem (Zedekiah) who would try to escape by digging through the wall at night, but who would be captured and exiled to Babylon (Ezek. 12:10-15).

Prophecy has a dual dimension. It is a word from God to the people living at the time, but it also contains a message for future generations. Ezekiel's message to us is the same as it was to the people 2,500 years ago. Life today seems vastly different now than it was then: we do not seem to have much in common with those ancient dwellers of Jerusalem. Or is it possible that we are more like them than we would care to admit?

Do we insist on living our lives according to our plans, even when we know that these are contrary to the plans God has for us? Are there indications of stubbornness, rebelliousness and lack of faith that tend to exile us from God and from one another? The Lord speaks to us though Scripture, but we often ignore or fail to understand the message, in spite of the clear signs that we see all around us. God is calling us to repent. Our failure to respond exiles us from Him.

In the Gospel reading we see the forgiveness of God, as represented by the king who wiped out the huge debt owed him by his servant. That kind of thing does not happen in human affairs! People want their money, and it seems the wealthier they are, the more demanding that everything owed be paid. Wiping out the debt is a symbol of God's forgiveness which, like His power, is beyond our ability to imagine. He does this in a superhuman way through the blood of His Son, shed on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins. The giving up of His Son for others is also beyond what humans could even begin to contemplate.

We are not able to do what God can do. We cannot control the power of the sea nor can we forgive the whole world of its sins. In fact, we find forgiveness very difficult and, like Saint Peter, we may sometimes feel that enough is enough. Perhaps we would find it a little easier if we concentrate on the great burden which God has removed from us. We should never forget that Jesus forgave those who mocked, scourged and even crucified Him.

Lord Jesus, with Your help, and Your example, let us do what we can to forgive the people who offend and hurt us.

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