Is God Unfair?
This is the question that the prophet Ezekiel hears coming from the mouths of the people. Perhaps its a question that we have asked ourselves.
If you watch a lot of “Law and Order” on TV or any of the other crime dramas you will see bad people who do evil things get caught and then punished for their crimes. Only rarely does anyone get away with it. Ezekiel preaches however that anyone that turns away from sin and gets back on the right track will get a free pass from any wrong they have done. Catholic teaching certainly backs this up in our teaching on reconciliation.
In contrast in the Gospel Jesus speaks to his disciples, those who have heard his word and are trying to live by it, and tells them that they had better walk the straight and narrow because the rules have gotten stricter for them. Murder used to be the big NO, NO but know even an argument with your neighbour will bring God’s judgment.
It would seem to make for a lopsided situation where sinners are pardoned and the good are judged severely. St. Augustine seems to have it figured out when he said, “Lord make me a Saint, but not yet”.
I think it is precisely because this is so confusing to people that Jesus used a lot of parables or stories to explain what he was trying to get at. For me one the best is the story of the “Prodigal Son“. In this story the youngest of two sons demands his inheritance from the father and then squanders it while the older son stays home by his father’s side. Realizing his mistake the younger of the two returns home but fears that he is too late and that irreparable damage has been done to his relationship with his father. Much to his surprise the father embraces the son and throws a lavish party celebrating his return. The older son however grows jealous and angry seeing his younger sibling embraced while he receives nothing out of the ordinary for his loyalty.
The parable is explained like this. It’s never too late to turn back to God. Many people come to me in their 40′s and 50′s and reveal that they have lived very self centered and destructive lives and they ask, “is it too late to change; can God forgive me?” The answer is no and yes. It’s never too late change and God can forgive. There is no “cut-off date” after which it is too late as long as there is still a breath in our bodies.
The other side of the parable deals with the older brother who has known the father’s love and has always been faithful and who is now jealous with the attention the younger brother receives and that he has been restored to the family.
There can be a tendency to cling to God’s mercy as if it is ours alone. The judgment that Jesus talks about is reserved for those who try to destroy the family that God is building, those who hang on to anger, those who harbor grudges and resentments.We might see the forgiveness of others as somehow diluting what we have experienced. But with God there is no end to mercy, it cannot be diminished. Instead, as our prodigal brothers and sisters are welcomed our whole family, God’s family, is restored and that is something that we can all be joyful for.
Is there anyone that you need to forgive?
Is there anyone from whom you need to ask forgiveness?