Sun, 16 August 2020
(Ez.24:15-24; Dt.32:18-21; Mt.19:16-22)
“Son of man, by a sudden blow
I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes,
but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears.”
A striking similarity there is between our first reading and our gospel: as Ezekial’s wife dies, and so his most valuable treasure is taken from him by the Lord, so the rich young man is told by Jesus, “Go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor,” thus calling him to give up his treasure. But an ironic contrast also exists: Ezekial is asked by the Lord not to mourn his loss, though custom and conscience and righteousness would inform him otherwise, while the young man goes away in sadness when really he should be rejoicing that the Christ is calling him to follow Him. For the death of a loved one we should rightfully weep – for here is a life taken from us – but our possessions, what are they?
And more so should we weep when it is our sins which have caused our loss to befall us, as is the case with the Israelites. The Lord teaches them that He shall remove Jerusalem and its temple from their sight, for they have forgotten God and “angered [Him] with their vain idols,” and so He is “filled with loathing… toward His sons and daughters.” But will they cry out to Him for the loss their sin has brought about? Will they turn and seek Him in prayer and fasting? No. He tells them, “You shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another.” The hardness of their hearts shall keep their tongues from crying out, and so they shall not find the grace of God.
And oh the sad fate of the rich, who likewise are prevented from entering the realm of God, in this case by their wealth of possessions. These vain things should mean no more than the dust of the earth, and when called from them and the anxiety they produce, what should one do but rejoice to approach the gates of heaven? But rather than this, the soul is made sad. It is a twisted world which only the grace of God can remedy. But who of this “fickle race” will come to the font of life and drink in the Word of salvation? Who will mourn in earnest the loss of life granted by God and have no care for the dead things of our earthly existence? And who shall continue the wicked twisting?
O LORD, we should mourn the loss of our souls,
our hearts turning away from you,
not the loss of our possessions.
YHWH, why should we weep over the loss of our possessions, the vain things of this earth, these riches which keep us from knowing your face? Should we not rather rejoice when you call us from them to walk in your way? All we should care for is the life you give to our soul and that of our neighbor; all we need is to worship you.
Yet we rot away in our sins, LORD, mourning not the loss of your light in our midst as we embrace darkness and death itself. What hope is there for such a fickle race, sons and daughters who forget their God and turn rather to vain idols? What can you do but destroy those who desecrate your sanctuary?
We are your children, LORD, and you call us close to you, desiring but to share your goodness with us. O let our hearts be set on your love for us and following in your way. Turn not your face away from us but let us return to you.