"Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house. . ." These words to the prophet Ezekiel remind me of a sarcastic Spanish movie I recently saw. The movie is titled "Seven Women, a Homosexual and Carlos" and tells the story of Carlos, a newly wed young professional, who comes from a Catholic family of moral values and beliefs, especially with regard to the Sacrament of Matrimony. The inexperienced, handsome Carlos struggles to be faithful to his wife as he experiences the constant sexual harassment of an attractive female coworker and the immoral social pressure of his chauvinist manager and friends who think that conjugal fidelity was made only for women, because "each man deserves to have seven women and a homosexual as partners." Like the prophet Ezekiel and many of the faithful of all times, Carlos succeeds in living as he is and thinks "in the midst of a rebellious house." Though it is only a movie drama, its sarcasm reflects the decadent mentality of our current society, which has expelled God and the Gospel from public schools, governmental institutions, and many "Christian" families. Our Catholic Church has also struggled to be the moral exemplar with the current, worldwide sexual abuse scandal.
In today’s gospel, therefore, Jesus equates "the kingdom of heaven" with God’s remarkable, boundless gift of forgiveness and reconciliation. For, while God is able to forgive everything "from his heart" and more than "seventy-seven times," we sometimes cannot even take a time to forgive others’ and our own mistakes and wrongdoings. In fact, unlike Jesus, who relinquished his divine prerogatives to forgive us from his heart and reconcile us with his "heavenly Father," we always claim and safeguard our human rights. God only claims and safeguards the human rights of the "little ones," the poor and powerless, who are unable to pay back what they owe. No wonder the psalmist encourages us "not to forget the works of the Lord," for it is by God’s grace that we are capable of and expected to forgive our brothers and sisters from our hearts and up to "seventy-seven times," which seems humanly impossible.
We may live in the midst of rebellious house or be part of it, but we are always encouraged to return to God, to forgive others, and to be a reminding sign of God’s forgiveness to others. We are simply called to be faithful to the gospel values of mutual respect, forgiveness and reconciliation. Therefore, today’s readings invite us to reflect on our human relationships, especially those that are difficult to keep in good terms.
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.