The first reading is from Ezekiel, a priest in exile in Babylon and the first person commissioned as a prophet outside the traditional lands of Judah and Israel. We read but a part of Ezekiel 18 and so miss the context which is given in verse 2 of the chapter: “what is the meaning of this proverb that you recite in the land of Israel: ‘Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge’?”
Some of the more cynical exiles seem to have offered up this proverb blaming others or God for their sufferings there in exile. In verses before our reading, Ezekiel responds that each generation is responsible for its own actions. He declares that the judgment of God falls only upon the sinner. The present generation is in no better or worse position before God on account of the sins of the previous generations. As the prophet notes: the sins of the just one are not remembered, while the virtues of the evil one are also not remembered. Each generation receives life or death according to its own actions. If the wicked should now turn from their evil ways, God would forgive them, and the present generation would live. The prophet appeals to the people to turn back to God, declaring that God takes no pleasure in anyone’s death. The chapter closes with God’s cry to the house of Israel, found in the Gospel acclamation: “Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the LORD, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” (v.31) The chapter closes with the admonition: “Turn back and live!” (v.32)
Today is a new day. Pray for a new heart and new spirit and strive to live a virtuous life that you may live eternally.