Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Ezekiel 12:1-12, Matthew 18:21-19:1)
Exile is a terrible experience. We only have to review the situations of the hostages in Darfur or of the other thirty-odd million refugees and displaced persons in the world today to see what horrors people in exile live. The foreign cultures they inhabit lack familiar institutions that might provide some solace. They have trouble finding jobs which leads to their exploitation as slave labor. They are also exceptionally vulnerable to new diseases and to swindlers’ deceptions.
In the reading from Ezekiel today God wants the prophet to show the Jerusalemites that they are headed on a course of exile. Ezekiel is to act as a person uprooted from his native place to awaken the people that their sins are bringing them to ruin. The hope is that the people will reform their lives so God might spare them the trauma of exilic life. Sadly, however, they will refuse to repent.
We see Jesus as bringing us out of the exile that sin has caused. Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden was the prototype of exile from which Jesus has rescued us. He brought us to the Kingdom of God (or “of heaven” as Matthew’s gospel consistently calls it). This state is not so much a physical place as it is a renewed relationship with God in which we experience the fullness of peace. Acquiring the relationship, we will forgive others their offenses against us, as the gospel today recommends, because we realize how gracious God has been to us.