But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die.
Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.
Today’s passage from Ezekiel points me back to the truth that moments of choice reliably carry sacramental intensity. Whenever we face a piercing choice, we may turn toward virtue or turn away. The path we have been following does not guarantee the path before us. Patterns of wickedness should not lead us to despair—we can always turn away. Patterns of righteousness should not make us complacent—we can still turn away. Even in moments of milder choice, we may turn toward God’s consolation or away from God, toward self-indulgence, defensiveness, and pride.
If the Lord calls us to account for the choices we make in every moment of every day, who can stand? Even if we long to infuse our righteousness with gratitude, who can say we outstrip the Pharisees? The burden of our choices and our knowledge of our own weakness would weigh us down were it not for our trust in the Lord’s kindness. God will bless and keep us. God will lead us into a righteousness that shines with a light not our own.
-Mr. Chuck Hussung teaches in the English Department at St. Louis U. High.
Take my thoughts, O Lord, and my memory.
Take my tears, my joys, my liberty.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.
—Part of Dan Schutte’s translation of the Suscipe of St. Ignatius
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