God is showing us the way


Ez 18:25-28

Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14

Phil 2:1-11

Gospel: Mt 21:28-32

This Sunday’s readings may not contain any big surprises, but there’s an important point we might overlook.

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that God will give life to those who turn away from the wrong they have done. What divine promise could be more familiar?

In the Gospel, Jesus also deals with the subject of sin. He makes the rather obvious but important point that saying the right thing can’t substitute for doing it.

The second reading, too, sounds a familiar theme. Be humble. Put yourself at the service of others. In other words, St. Paul says, be like Jesus.

So the readings set before us the reality of sin, the need to change, the promise of forgiveness, a vision of a better life we could live.

As we ponder where we’re at in relation to all of this, the responsorial psalm deserves our attention. Here is someone who is pondering these issues.

Painfully conscious of how he has failed God and others, the psalmist is reaching out to God for mercy and help. Please, don’t be hard on me, the psalmist begs God. Take account of how weak I am.

It is easy to overlook that the psalm contains not only the psalmist’s acknowledgment of his sins but also statements about God. God is good and upright; “he shows sinners the way” (Ps 25:8). This puts the psalmist and his sin in a new framework.

The psalmist is surrounded by memories of the ways he has failed to live as God wanted. He feels trapped in the tangle of his sins. But the assurance that God “shows sinners the way” reverses the perspective.

God, who is good, is out there looking for the psalmist. God feels merciful toward the psalmist.

It is because God is stirring something in the psalmist’s conscience that the psalmist feels his guilt, and so the fact that he is calling out to God for mercy is a sign that God is looking for him.

God is more than willing to guide the psalmist out of the swamp he has gotten himself into and bring him to dry ground. The psalmist needs to take his hand.

For us, too, God is the one who “shows the sinner the way.” In our thoughts and feelings, in something someone says to us or something we read or something we notice, we may be struck by how we have hurt someone.

We may realize how the problems in a relationship stem partly from things we’ve said or done. We may get an idea for how we could acknowledge our failure and bring good into a situation where we did something wrong.