The Secret to Winning Over Stubborn Hearts

August 13, 2020   Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Lectionary: 416)

Reading 1   EZ 12:1-12

The word of the LORD came to me: 
Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house;
they have eyes to see but do not see,
and ears to hear but do not hear,
for they are a rebellious house.
Now, son of man, during the day while they are looking on,
prepare your baggage as though for exile, 
and again while they are looking on,
migrate from where you live to another place;
perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house.
You shall bring out your baggage like an exile in the daytime 
while they are looking on;
in the evening, again while they are looking on,
you shall go out like one of those driven into exile;
while they look on, dig a hole in the wall and pass through it;
while they look on, shoulder the burden and set out in the darkness;
cover your face that you may not see the land,
for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel.

I did as I was told.
During the day I brought out my baggage
as though it were that of an exile,
and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand
and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness,
shouldering my burden.

Then, in the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, did not the house of Israel, that rebellious house,
ask you what you were doing?
Tell them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
This oracle concerns Jerusalem
and the whole house of Israel within it.
I am a sign for you: 
as I have done, so shall it be done to them;
as captives they shall go into exile.
The prince who is among them shall shoulder his burden
and set out in darkness,
going through a hole he has dug out in the wall,
and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone.


Responsorial Psalm   PS 78:56-57, 58-59, 61-62

R. (see 7b)  Do not forget the works of the Lord!
They tempted and rebelled against God the Most High,
and kept not his decrees.
They turned back and were faithless like their fathers;
they recoiled like a treacherous bow.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
They angered him with their high places
and with their idols roused his jealousy.
God heard and was enraged
and utterly rejected Israel.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
And he surrendered his strength into captivity,
his glory in the hands of the foe.
He abandoned his people to the sword
and was enraged against his inheritance.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!


Alleluia   PS 119:135

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let your countenance shine upon your servant
and teach me your statutes.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MT 18:21–19:1

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
>But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

By Madison Sykes 

Amidst the current crises in our world, I found today's readings very relatable. Recently, it’s been easy to feel like I’m living “in the midst of a rebellious house,” as in today’s first reading. In this passage, God acknowledges His servant is struggling, living amongst people who “have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear.”

Similarly, our world today seems better at talking than listening, and at being seen than seeing. 

Being the empathetic person I am, I often try to carry every burden alone (shoutout to my fellow Enneagram 2 personality types), and so, in these times of crisis, I have fought relentlessly to reach the hearts and minds of those around me, even those whose eyes and ears are closed. I have tried to solve the whole world’s problems by pursuing every broken heart and seeking out every opportunity for difficult conversation. Seeing “rebellious house” in today’s first passage got me excited, as I thought I was about to learn the secret to winning over stubborn hearts. 

But the advice God gives Ezekiel, as he faces his rebellious house, is unexpected. The Lord doesn’t tell him to charge into combat or condemn his community; yet neither does God tell him to hide in his house. Rather, He says “migrate from where you live to another place; perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house...while they look on, shoulder the burden and set out in the darkness.”  

At first, I was annoyed -- the Lord wants me to take on all the burden myself, and just flee when things get difficult? That can’t be right!

But then I read the Gospel, in which Jesus encourages His followers to adopt a similar tactic, encouraging them to endlessly turn the other cheek, even if it means “losing” a battle. 

I reluctantly realized God was reminding me that, oftentimes, there is just as much power in walking away, as there is in pursuing. With some battles, there is power in surrendering, not because I’m scared or incorrect, but rather because I realize it is God’s fight, not mine. He is the only one who can truly change hearts. I am here to plant seeds in the hearts of others, maybe to do a little watering, at most; but the harvest, the glory, is His alone to reap. 

So I will continue to pursue difficult, important conversations; however, I will do so with wisdom and compassion, remembering that oftentimes love is turning the other cheek. Sometimes grace and surrender send a more powerful message of faith, because they show that I don’t need to see the victory to know He wins. So I won't appoint myself the single-handed healer of the rebellious house. Instead I will walk away, pointing to God not with my words but with the grace by which I live and love.


Madison Sykes is a recent graduate of Santa Clara University and the writer of the blog "A Girl in the World". While studying for her LSAT, she is simultaneously embarking on a quest to find the world's best cup of coffee, and to bake the best gluten free scones. You can usually find her barefoot in a tree or hammock, book in hand. Follow along on her journey here.

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