Ezekiel 18:21 – 28 & Matthew 5:20 – 26
The theme of our first reading evokes some of the controversies implicated in the Protestant Reformation concerning faith and good works. Unlike some retirement fund that allows one to stop working and enjoy the fruit of one’s labors, virtues and good works cannot be similarly accumulated with a view to retiring from virtue and right living. The moment we give up on our quest for holiness and striving for goodness, all the good we’ve done evaporates and, in the words of Ezekiel, we die. For, if our righteousness doesn’t surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees, and our virtuous deeds are carried out for the sake of something else, they fail to be transformative and leave us fundamentally unchanged. Conversely, when our efforts at doing good and living virtuously are simultaneously accompanied by a deep desire to change and choose life, then they increasingly become living expressions of who we are becoming in Christ. Virtue is thus no longer in service of something else, but ever more fully the simple expression of our redeemed humanity which is regaining its likeness to God—surely a worthy goal to strive for this Lenten Season?