The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your upper lip or eat the bread of mourners.
So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded. Then the people said to me, "Will you not tell us what these things mean for us, that you are acting this way?"
Then I said to them: The word of the Lord came to me: Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and your heart's desire; and your sons and your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword. And you shall do as I have done; you shall not cover your upper lip or eat the bread of mourners. Your turbans shall be on your heads and your sandals on your feet; you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall pine away in your iniquities and groan to one another.
You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you.
You forgot the God who gave you birth.
When the Lord saw this, he was filled with loathing
and anger toward his sons and daughters. (R./)
I will hide my face from them, he said,
and see what will then become of them.
What a fickle race they are,
children with no loyalty in them!
Since they have provoked me with what is no god
and angered me with their vain idols,
I will provoke them with what is no people;
with a foolish nation I will anger them. (R./)
Someone came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself." The young man said to him, "I have kept all these; what do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Ezekiel is ordered not to mourn publicly the death of his wife. She is described by the endearing phrase, "the delight of your eyes." People are amazed that on the day after her death Ezekiel proceeds with life as usual. They ask him: Will you not tell us what all these things that you are doing mean for us? He replies that the people shall not mourn or weep, perhaps because of sheer exhaustion after the long siege and its horrifying experience, when God "will desecrate my sanctuary, the stronghold of your pride, the delight of your eyes, the desire of your soul." As we accept the inevitable as God's mysterious providence, we get the strength to begin over again. Ezekiel 24 marks the end of the first major period, up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.
In the gospel Jesus asks us to make the best use of our gifts, talents and assets, by sharing them with others. Everyone is called to this positive, generous interaction; and some may even be called literally to give up everything and to own nothing for the sake of the kingdom. Sooner or later all are asked to share of our best. We are being led deeply into the mystery of the kingdom where actions are not judged by worldly wisdom but by the instincts of faith.
Here we have the story of a good man who wanted to be better. He had kept all the commandments of the Jewish Law faithfully, but he had a sense that this was not enough. He felt called to something more, and, so, he said to Jesus, "What more do I need to do?" We might find ourselves being able to identify with this man. There are times in our lives when we too might experience in ourselves a strong desire to go beyond where we are, to grow in our relationship with the Lord, to be more generous in the doing of his work. In one shape or form we find ourselves asking ourselves this man's question, "What more do I need to do?"
But this man could not live with the answer that Jesus gave to his question. Jesus asked this particular man to do something he didn't ask everybody to do. He was to sell his possession, give his money to the poor and then to set out along the road after Jesus, as Peter, Andrew, James, John and others had done. One of the saddest verses in the gospels comes at the end of our reading, "when the young man heard these words he went away sad." If we ask the Lord the young man's question we cannot anticipate how the Lord will answer us. Yet, the Lord has some purpose for our lives which will always take us beyond where we are in some sense. We find our happiness in yielding to the Lord's purpose for our lives. If we do so, we can be assured that he will give us all the grace and strength we need for the journey.