By Yvonne Chamberlain
This week’s scripture readings remind us that we must, not only, do what is right and just in the eyes of God, but we cannot compare ourselves to others, equating our good deeds as superior or more authentic.
In Ezekiel 18, God reminds the House of Israel, the righteous will be saved, and granted eternal life in his Kingdom. When they hear this they assume, because they were the chosen people of God, that this status alone entitles them to eternal life. Yet God warns them, you will be judged based on your individual actions, not the actions of your collective, nor the actions of your ancestors, or your descendants. Therefore, our actions, and ours alone, will determine our place in God’s Kingdom. He also makes known, regardless of whether we have lived a life filled with integrity or only recently turned away from sin, and chosen the righteous path, we will equally be blessed. This is a reiteration of the message we heard last week, in Matthew’s Gospel, about the laborers who were disgruntled over the wages granted to their fellow workers in the vineyard. Honor is in doing what is desired and not necessarily the tenure of our fidelity.
The second reading this week reminds us, when practicing righteous acts we should do so without boasting or self-aggrandizing, but rather, regard our work as a humble sacrifice pleasing to God, and for His benefit alone. Have you ever felt entitled to something because you’ve put in the work or “paid your dues”? Have you ever felt cheated because someone else seemed to do all the wrong things, but got what you have been longing for? If you answered yes to either of these questions, know that these are common responses of our human nature. Although they are not virtuous traits, and therefore are not pleasing to God, they are attitudes that we can reform. When we acknowledge our shortcomings and genuinely seek to change God extends his mercy to us, much like he did for the tax collectors and prostitutes Jesus heralds in this week’s Gospel.
Have you done something that you know is right, even when it takes more effort, or despite the fact that no one is around to witness you taking a shortcut? For example, walking around someone’s yard, instead of cutting through their grass; or driving around the perimeter of a virtually empty parking lot, instead of cutting through the middle. Or have you felt compelled to do something fair and just, even when you, yourself, are not impacted? Like speaking up for someone being bullied, disregarded, or otherwise unable to speak for themselves? In these instances, though seemingly insignificant to some, God sees that our hearts and actions are aligned with His will for righteousness and justice. If we commit to submitting to his will, in small things and large things alike, we will not only please God, but surely be granted eternal life.