Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32)
“When you found the potatoes spoiled, you swore, and threw in my Son’s name.” These words of Our Lady of La Salette come very close to those of the prophet Ezekiel: “You say, ‘The Lord’s way is not fair!’”
This week we are confronted once again with the question of God’s fairness. It is a matter of expectations.
Jesus had only one expectation for his life: to accomplish his Father’s will. Even when, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked to be spared the suffering that lay ahead, there was no hint of blame. He was, as St. Paul writes, obedient to the point of death.
Like the parable in today’s Gospel, the message of La Salette presents opposing scenarios—refusal to submit to God’s will, on the one hand, and conversion on the other—only one of which is acceptable.
Suffering is a great mystery, and Jesus expects his disciples to carry their cross. The Christian response to suffering can be one of questioning why, or asking to be spared—or conversion. The parable recognizes that people can change. The message of La Salette has the same expectation.
Conversion, turning to the Lord, doesn’t necessarily ease suffering, or provide the answer to the problem of pain. What it does is simply to let God in.
That is really what the Beautiful Lady is asking. Through prayer, worship, reverence, we can open the door and invite the Lord into our lives, painful or peaceful as they may be.
We will find that the Lord has been there all the time, just waiting for us acknowledge his presence.
Ezekiel says that whoever turns away from sin will “surely” live. The Hebrew here uses two forms of the verb “to live,” which could be translated literally as “living he will live,” or “he will live to live.” It suggests more than just being alive, a new intensity of life.
“If they are converted... potatoes will be self-sown in the fields,” Mary says. If we return to the Lord with all our heart, even if our lives are far from easy, we will know his blessing.
That is our Christian expectation. It’s called hope.