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(Part 192)


August 11, 2016

Today’s readings:
Ezekiel 12:1-12
Psalm 78:56-62
Matthew 18:21-19:1

The New Evangelization is a prophetic call of the Spirit to God’s people, both to renew their ways and to be agents of renewal for the world. This is a particular challenge to the Catholic Church, the one true Church established by Jesus himself, and tasked as Christ’s body to proclaim the good news of salvation in him to the world. She is holy and apostolic. Unfortunately, God’s people are failing in these two areas.

The situation of God’s people today is as it was for God’s people Israel. They were called, they were formed, but they were unfaithful. “But they tested and rebelled against God Most High, his decrees they did not observe.” (Ps 78:56). The consequences were terrible, as His people moved away from His protective embrace. “He gave up his might into captivity, his glorious ark into the hands of the foe. God delivered his people to the sword” (Ps 78:61-62a).

This is how God’s people are today. Christian Europe has turned away from its heritage. The western Christian world has not only turned its back on God, but has become anti-faith. Today they worship the worldly idols of materialism, consumerism, hedonism. They have embraced the culture of death, with such abominations as abortion and same-sex unions. Do we wonder why the world today is so troubled? “They enraged him with their high places, and with their idols provoked him to jealous anger. God heard and grew angry; he rejected Israel completely.” (Ps 78:58-59). God will not be mocked!

In the face of infidelity and even rebellion, God would always try to bring His people back. God kept sending His prophets. Such was the case with Ezekiel. “Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see, but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear. They are such a rebellious house!” (Ez 12:2). God sent prophets to speak to His people and to show them the way. God warned them through Ezekiel of the consequences of their rebellion. “Say, I am a sign for you: just as I have done, so it shall be done to them; into exile, as captives they shall go.” (Ez 12:11).

Israel would go through cycles of repentance and rebellion. Ultimately, they lost it all. Still God would persist in restoring His people. So God sent His very own Son Jesus, that by his death and resurrection he might restore them. This was a manifestation of God’s great mercy. In the face of God’s justice (punishment for transgression), there was also His mercy. God is a forgiving God. In spite of our persistent sin and infidelity, God forgives. Repeatedly. Endlessly. “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Mt 18:22).

God’s mercy is the key to restoration. But how about all the problems in the world? The way of God is for His people to show mercy to others. That is the way to peace and unity.

Jesus gives us the parable of the unforgiving servant. A debtor who owed a very huge amount to the king was forgiven his debt, but in turn, that debtor refused to forgive the much lesser debt to him of a fellow servant (Mt 18:24-30). This was a parable on the mercy of God, but also on the need for us in turn to be merciful. The consequence to the first servant, in his failure to be merciful, was dire. “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.” (Mt 18:32-34).

The lesson to us, God’s people, is clear. “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Mt 18:35). God’s mercy is available to all. But His mercy is not just to forgive us so that we can escape punishment but continue to sin. It is intended to draw us back to Himself, and to live His way of life. If we are not forgiving, then we are totally different from the Father, and so do not deserve to be His children.

God’s anger is upon those who turn away from Him and turn to idolatry, and God’s anger is upon those who take His mercy but refuse to in turn be merciful to others. Idolatry/rebellion and lack of mercy are the reasons why the world is in such a terrible situation. The only way out is turning back to God, and being merciful as He is merciful.

This can only happen as God’s people themselves are restored and renewed, and become missionaries of His mercy. This is the call of the New Evangelization.

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