August 20, 2012 - Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

Ezekiel 24:15-23
Deuteronomy 32:18-21
Matthew 19:16-22

God takes away Ezekiel’s wife and requires him to mourn in silence. Ezekiel is informed in the morning that his wife will die that evening, and he is commanded not to mourn. If a human did this, we would condemn them as most cruel. The loss of one’s wife is painful enough, but when God requires Ezekiel to continue prophesying, not merely in spite of his loss but using this loss as an example for the people, it seems too much.

The rich young man in the Gospel today is sad. He obeys all the commandments, but he wants more. Jesus tells him that that to be perfect he needs to sell everything he has. In comparison with Ezekiel, the sadness of the rich young man seems petty, but how would we feel if every possession were taken from us? If you went home today and discovered that you no longer had a home and would be homeless from now on, it would be tragic. But Jesus does not immediately require the young man to sell everything. When he merely asks for eternal life, Jesus points him to the commandments. It is only when he asks for more, that Jesus reveals how to be perfect. Tradition holds that he went home and sold everything, but he went home sad.

It would be easier if we believed in a good God and a bad God, and we could thank the good God for all the good and blame the bad God for all the bad, but this is not the truth. There is one God, and we must bring all the thanks and all the blame and lay it all at his feet. We can be angry with God and question God and even hate God, but none of that will change reality. In a disagreement between me and God, I not only know that God will win because he is stronger, but that God is right. How could I be right and God be wrong?

Ezekiel confronts his loss in the only way we can: acceptance of God’s will. It is a mystery why God did it, but if we believe in an all-knowing and all-loving God, we know for certain that it was all for their good. God loves Ezekiel and he loves Ezekiel’s wife. He does not do cruel things. We know this, even when it is difficult to believe.