Today’s reading comes from EZ 18:21-28
Oscar Wilde once wrote that “every Saint has a past, and every sinner has a future”. He means of course that no Saint was born freed of sin, bar the Virgin Mother, and no sinner is completely void of redemption while he remains breathing. Ezekiel’s words in these verses tell us the same thing: repent and enjoy God’s lavish mercy and love, or sin and incur the justice of God as death and destruction.
There are two questions put forth here: can a sinner repent and what will happen to his sins, and can a just man sin and what happened to his just actions and former life lived out in justice? Ezekiel’s answer is: if a man repents of his sins then he shall live, and if a just man sins and dies in sin then he must suffer God’s justice upon him. Fascinatingly, Ezekiel anticipates the people’s objection: “But that’s not fair! Why should a man who lived in sin all his life be forgiven while a man who lived all his life in justice be punished for a moment of weakness?!” To this, the Lord responds that a thing is not done that which is not finished (factum non dicitur quod non perseverat).
Our entire life-span on earth is but a journey. While we still draw breaths we are still trotting about on this journey. Thus, when a wayward traveler realizes that he is heading the wrong way and corrects it so that he may reach the Final Destination, he must be said as having left the mistakes behind him and he may yet reach that Final Destination given that he continues on the right path. However, if a traveler who has been following the right path makes a wrong decision at a junction and follows the wrong path, we can in no way say that he’s going to reach the Final Destination following the erroneous path that he is on. Further, we cannot say that the good decisions that he’s made with regards to the right paths in the past should deliver him to the Final Destination despite him being on a path that does not currently lead there.
And so because a thing is not done that which is not finished, we must always be attentive to take the best road towards the Lord. His justice is tempered with mercy to forgive the repentant sinner, but it is insufferable for the impious. And impiety is our own doing, not God’s.