As children, how often have we cried, “That’s not fair!” when we perceived a sibling or peer was getting better treatment that we were?
Liturgy geeks may see something familiar from last Fall; verses 25-28 are used in Fall Ordinary Time, the 26th Sunday of cycle A. For the Reconciliation Lectionary we get a longer reading. Perhaps it gives us more context. It is one of three passages used for the Rite, and the last of these three to be treated here. It’s a long one, so let’s read:
The word of the Lord came to me thus:
Only the one who sins shall die.
The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father,
nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son.
Just to be clear: children do not inherit the guilt of their parents. The snarky rejoinder might be that they incur enough of it on their own. But even the most guilty among us have reason to hope:
Justice belongs to the just,
and wickedness to the wicked.
But if the wicked turn away
from all the sins they have committed,
if they keep all my statutes
and do what is just and right,
they shall surely live,
they shall not die.
None of the crimes they committed
shall be remembered against them;
they shall live
because of the justice they have practiced.
Jesus reinforced this, as has the Reconciliation ministry of the Church throughout twenty centuries.
Ezekiel reminds us God derives no delight in persistent sinners:
Do I indeed derive any pleasure in the death of the wicked?
says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rejoice
when they turn from their evil way and live?
And if the just turn from justice and do evil,
like all the abominations the wicked do,
can they do this evil and still live?
None of the justice they did shall be remembered,
because they acted treacherously
and committed these sins;
because of this, they shall die.
It is not in the whole of our lives that we incur penalty, but in how God finds us in the end. A person can live ten or twenty thousand days as a sinner, and yet in the final minute offer a sincere metanoia, a turning from evil. Does “That’s not fair!” come to mind? It did for the prophet, anticipating public response. We’ll look at that response in tomorrow’s post. Meanwhile, comments?