DIFFERENT ASSIGNMENTS – 23rd Sunday, Year A
The Lord gives people assignments. Ezekiel was appointed “watchman for the house of Israel”. That was not an easy assignment. He was to speak to the people God’s words. Just as humans speak different words to others depending on the circumstances, the Lord speaks different words to different people. The Lord speaks differently to the wicked and unrepentant sinners than He does to the good, the converted, those sorry for their sins, and open to the Lord.
Naturally, we are going to speak and act differently toward our friends than our enemies, or those who are doing some harm to us. The Lord may speak a word of encouragement to someone who is trying to come to the Lord, and a word of the consequences to someone going against the Commandments. The Lord has different words for those who pray and those who don’t; different words to those who steal and do works of injustice than to those who are honest and do just deeds.
Just as in human life it can be impossible to say certain words to people because of what they have done or said or are doing, so it’s impossible for the Lord to speak the same words to those who are with Him, and following His ways and Commandments than those who are not.
Just as we can’t ask the same thing of everyone, so too the Lord has specific calls to different people. “If today you hear His voice harden not your hearts.” Clearly if someone hardens their heart against the Lord, there are certain words the Lord won’t be able to say to them. We know that in human life as well. If someone has hardened their heart against us, what we can say to them is limited. The same works with the Lord. The Scriptures give different descriptions of those who listen and hear the Lord, and those who don’t.
We all know we can say something really great and true to someone, and get no response from one person, and a great response from another. The Lord has those experiences all the time. The Gospels are filled with different responses that Jesus received in His public ministry. The same responses, good, bad, indifferent, the Church receives in every age. “O, that today you would hear His voice, harden not your hearts as at Meribah as the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.”
A number of the Commandments tell us what not to do, don’t commit adultery, don’t kill, steal, or covet. Sins start in the mind. If they are not dealt with there, they can go into actions. Paul tells us we are to go beyond the law and love one another. Love, like sin, starts in the mind and heart. If we are loving in a true and good way, we are not going to do harm to others. “Love does no harm to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” You could be doing something good for your neighbor, and they may think you are doing something bad to them. Parents, policemen, priests, and preachers know those experiences. People react differently to calls to discipline, to avoid sin, and do what is good for your spiritual and physical health. Some accept them and others reject and rebel against them and those who bring them. The prophets of the Old Testament were not only not listened to, they were martyred. The Lord gets reactions all the time for the good He is doing.
Sins against the Lord and others, and one’s self, need to be dealt with and healed so different words and calls can take place. Some sins and offenses can be and need to be handled by the two parties themselves, husband and wife, brother and brother, friend and friend, priest and parishioner, teacher and student. Bringing others in before that level is tried complicates and makes it worse, leads to misunderstandings and misinformation. The in-laws might still be hung up on some argument the couple had that they have already healed, forgotten and forgiven, which the in-laws should have never even known about, much less entered into. If that level fails, just another person or two might help. Jesus gives guidelines for when or “If your brother sins against you…”
Repentance, forgiveness, and healing opens one to hear more from the Lord and people too, which leads to greater life!