Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
Through the oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel, God gave his people reason to hope. It would have been a cryptic message to his hearers, long centuries before the Lord’s coming. 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 Chosen 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 at the conclusion of the passage from the prophet.
Such salvation surpasses humanity’s most ambitious dreams. And so we express our gratitude in the Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It is indeed good to give thanks, 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 challenge to those who would rather “flourish” according to worldly terms. It is a sign of contradiction. And so Saint Paul repeatedly emphasizes, to the Corinthians, the necessity of courage. Our faith makes us strong, and it is proved in our deeds. The Apostle reminds us that we will be judged by the ways our faith manifested itself in works: “so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”
Faith. Courage. God himself will empower the works he expects from us; though we may freely choose to correspond to his grace.
In the prophetic oracles, in the Psalms that were sung in Jerusalem, he scattered the small seed that sprang up and became the mustard tree, large enough to accommodate all the birds of the sky, just as Ezekiel had foretold.
He gave this doctrine to the disciples, as he still does today, 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.