Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Memorial of St. John Eudes)
(Ezekiel 36:23-28; Matthew 22:1-14)
The cause for sainthood of Fr. Stanley Rother, an American missionary to Guatemala who was assasinated in 1981, has begun in earnest. Fr. Rother refused to leave the indigenous people of the village to which he was assigned despite persistent death threats. Eventually soldiers carried out the crime. When Fr. Rother’s family wanted to take Fr. Rother’s body back to Oklahoma for burial, the people resisted claiming that he had been their priest and their protector. Finally, a settlement was reached. All of Fr. Rother’s body except his heart was returned to the United States. The Indian people, however, retained his noble and loving heart in their church.
The reading from Ezekiel today promises that all everyone’s heart will be purified like Fr. Rother’s. Ezekiel says that God will replace the stony hearts of the people of Judah with tender hearts so that the people may do homage to God and care for one another. He adds that this will be done through the gathering of the people into a new land and with the sprinkling of cleansing water.
It is confounding how Ezekiel’s prophecy might have been fulfilled despite the fact that contempt and carelessness still persist in our communities. Yet we know that Jesus has renewed our hearts in Baptism (the sprinkling) which brings us into his Church (the new land). Regrettably, however, some fail to follow him choosing, instead, self-gratification that lead us away from him and one another.