[Excerpted from the scripture reflection prepared for the September/October 2017 issue of Emmanuel by Brother John Barker, OFM, of Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois.] We continue this week to explore the theme of God’s ways versus human ways and in particular the question of “fairness.” In the reading from Ezekiel, God responds to the accusation that his ways are not fair. In the verses just previous to this selection, God has affirmed that he does not “find pleasure in the death of the wicked,” but rather rejoices “when they turn from their evil way and live.” No matter how long or consistently the wicked have been wicked, if they repent God will not hold the past against them.
In the same way, though, those who have abandoned the path of goodness to take up evil ways cannot expect that their past virtue to count for anything (Ez 18:21-24). God counters the accusation that his disregard for past behavior is unfair by affirming that, on the contrary, it is human ways that are unfair. It seems the people do not like the fact that the past is set aside in favor of the present; they would prefer that the past also “count.”