As our Lenten journey through the Hebrew Scriptures continues, we now encounter Ezekiel (18:21-28). This prophet here conveys the Lord’s disposition toward those who turn to sin and to those who turn away from sin. The wicked person can turn from sin and live justly and be saved. Just so, the virtuous person can turn to evil ways and be lost. God does not wish the death of the wicked but, in justice (“Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?” — v.25), He must be consistent.
This is certainly a theme in Ezekiel. Further along, at 33:11, God says through the prophet: “As I live—oracle of the Lord GOD—I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!”
This sentiment can be found in Paul’s writings as well (God is wonderfully immutable!): “that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity…is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved” (1 Tim 2-4).
So, there is always time to repent, no matter what evil we have committed, no matter how long we were astray. Conversely, falling into mortal sin, even for a short time, and not repenting of it leads to eternal destruction (see CCC 1861). Like God we are to desire that no one be lost, no matter how heinous one has acted, and no matter who suffered under this evil (even if it be us). Pray for the conversion of sinners, even (especially) those who seem least likely to be open to such a change. And when it comes to those who have wronged us, remember Jesus’ command: “pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). Then, like God and the angels, we too can rejoice (see Lk 15:10).
A prayer I try to say daily is for all those who are to die today who are destined for hell, that they may, in their last moments, sincerely plead for God’s mercy (it is worthwhile to remember the Good Thief on his cross [the patron saint of such sinners?]. I encourage you to do the same, especially as we are especially cognizant of the Divine Mercy this Jubilee Year.