Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
In the cryptic message of the prophet Ezekiel, long centuries before the Lord’s coming, God gave His people reason to hope. Ezekiel glimpsed a day when the Lord God would place a tree on a mountain in Israel, a tree that would “put forth branches and bear fruit.” Who could have predicted that the tree would be a cross on the hill of Calvary, and that the fruit would be salvation?
Ezekiel foresees salvation coming to “birds of every kind”—thus, not just to the people of Israel, but also to the Gentiles, who will “take wing” through their new life in Christ. God indeed will “lift high the lowly tree,” as He solemnly promises.
Such salvation surpasses humanity’s most ambitious dreams. And so we express our gratitude in the Psalm: “Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It is indeed good, and better still to give thanks with praise. The Psalmist speaks of those who are just upon the earth, but looks to God as the source and measure of justice, of righteousness. Like Ezekiel, he evokes the image of a flourishing tree to describe the lives of the just. The image, again, suggests the Cross as the measure of righteousness.
The Cross is a sign of contradiction to those who would rather “flourish” in worldly terms. As St. Paul emphasizes to the Corinthians, we need courage. Our faith makes us strong, and it is proved in our deeds. He reminds us that we will be judged by the ways our faith manifests itself in works: “so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”
God Himself will empower the works He expects from us, though we freely choose to correspond to His grace. In the prophetic oracles, He scattered the seed that sprang up and became the mustard tree, large enough to accommodate all the birds of the sky, just as Ezekiel had seen. He gave this doctrine to His disciples in terms they were able to understand, and He provided a full explanation. In the sacraments He provides still more: the grace of faith and the courage we need to live in the world as children of God.