Ez 12:1-12; Ps 78:56-59,61,62; Mt 18:21-19:1
Tyrants are blinded by the light of Christ, a light that was not overcome by the darkness of any totalitarian state or atheistic ideology. Believers are given the grace to die like the Lord Jesus; he died out of love, self-sacrificial love. Such witness proclaims the truth of the gospel even among those who could not hear this testimony. Indeed, martyrdom enables us to not forget the wonders of the LORD. Like Ezekiel of old the martyrs are a sign for the Israel, old and new, that God is faithful to his people no matter how rebellious his people become at any time in history. The Lord Jesus himself died and rose with forgiveness on his divine lips for all who could never pay the debt of sin and vice. We who have been forgiven so much remember at every Eucharist our call to share the bounty of our redemption with those who sin against us seventy-seven times. The merciful love in the witness of the martyrs, in every generation, is not just a beautiful story; it is a severe demand upon anyone who eats the bread and drinks the blood of Christ, our Lord and God.
The prophetic drama that God commands Ezekiel to enact is a living parable for the exiles to see and hear. The rebellious house of Israel has become accustomed to their blindness and deafness. For all too long they have refused to listen to the prophets of the LORD, and they have neglected to see his signs and wonders. We are all together too comfortable with our lack of expectation. We gather around the words and deeds of God’s prophets each week in Sunday Liturgy, yet we seldom expect the LORD to do anything or say anything. His great and wondrous signs we do not see. His comforting and challenging words we do not hear. We are like exiles gathering around Ezekiel to be entertained by the foolish prophet. If we have the courage and honesty to finally ask, “What are you doing?” Then the action-parable we will see, and the voice of the LORD we will hear. “I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them; as captives they shall go into exile.” All rebellion leads to exile. Our sins and vices have consequences. Sooner or later we will listen and learn if only because the prophets continue to do what seems to be mere foolishness and preach what seems to be utter nonsense. Thanks be to God for the Prophets and Martyrs who continue to reveal who we are and whose we are, even though we continue to be a rebellious house.
Saint Peter seems to ask a foolish question, but it is a question on the hearts of those who hear and follow the Lord Jesus. Our forgiveness must be without limit. Even in our own day the act of unasked for and unmerited forgiveness is altogether startling. It calls forth protest and objection even from fellow disciples. How could any community forgive a man who entered their school and killed their children? Even more, how could the relatives of these innocent victims try to comfort the relatives of the killer? Such an act of boundless mercy is unfathomable and completely foreign to a secular society. Such an act of Christ-like kindness is a severe challenge to any who claim to follow the merciful Savior. This mystery of divine mercy is much easier to sing about in prayer than it is to put into practice in the harsh light of day. This mystery is so wondrous that the Lord Jesus had to speak of it in a parable so that it could sink into our psyche slowly and claim our hearts completely. To forgive our brother from our heart is the only way to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus spoke these words, as he was about to leave Galilee, the land of his great success and popularity, and cross the Jordan into the district of Judea, the land his violent opposition and rejection. Indeed, the Lord Jesus does not expect of us anything he does not willingly give for us. He forgives us seventy-seven times, his mercy is boundless. His teaching cost him everything. Does our discipleship cost any less?