Second thoughts

by | Sep 23, 2014 | Formation, Reflections

Vincent EucharistTwenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), September 28, 2014 – Ez 18, 25-28; Phil 2, 1-11; Mt 21, 28-32

If there is any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy (Phil 2, 1)

Just like his Father, Jesus does not wish us sinners to die but to turn back to him and live. He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.

Our Lord does not react impetuously to our disobedience; he does not right way confront us and punish us. He knows how to wait. He gives us ample time to repent. He does not repay us according to our faults. His divine power is manifested in leniency and clemency.

But that is not how many religious practitioners of strict observance see God. They get frustrated when they see an offender go unpunished. Like the prophet Jonah, they get unreasonably dismayed; they have no memory of their own faults and of God’s kindness towards them.

They expect God to respond quickly to the disobedient with due punishment. One must show the delinquent his place and to nip delinquency in the bud. If one says or does nothing, one gives the impression of consent, unfairness or weakness.

Those who say, however, that the Lord’s way is unfair are frequently the ones who are really guilty of unfairness. Such persons change their minds and repent only with great difficulty, with even the Law and the prophets and the Son of God himself teaching in no uncertain terms the way to righteousness.

But all the same, Jesus shows them his inexhaustible patience. He keeps longing for the day when he can gather and embrace all of them, including those who have murdered God’s prophets and messengers. That is because God’s gifts, call and promises are irrevocable. And he even renews the new covenant, sealed with the sacrifice of Jesus, who gave his body up and shed his blood for all. God does not repudiate, does not abandon anyone.

If anyone, then, gets left behind, such one has only himself to blame, for refusing, by his own free will, to go to God through Jesus. Punishment, death, does not come from God, but rather from us. It is the result of the wrong choices we make; “a person reaps only what he sows.” Hellish solitary confinement is the logical consequence of our wanting to be alone, to lock ourselves up in our interests, to close ourselves to God and the neighbor.

Self-absorbed, we destroy ourselves. According to St. Vincent de Paul, to lack tender compassion is to be inhuman, to be worse than animals (Coste XII:271). The compassionless individual is like a rock, insensitive, incapable of repentance, of growing and maturing.

Ross Reyes Dizon

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