Our first reading from Ezekiel speaks about those who turn away from sin being welcomed back by God. As Christians, we all recognize this, and it would be hard for us to see it any other way. But God was speaking to people who truly thought differently, who believed that someone’s sins would change them permanently. Of course, they do, unless God does something about it.
This was exactly the point, that people not only had to turn away from sin, they had to return to God for it to be wiped away. Even with this message, there were people who couldn’t come to grips with God allowing such things to happen. Their self-righteousness went so far as to say that this wasn’t fair, because people couldn’t simply have their past erased.
The issue at hand was a cultural one, because many in the ancient world believed that sin would always cling to a person. Further than that, most believed that sins would have a lasting effect upon the person’s children and grandchildren, making them second-class citizens at best. But God sets this matter straight, saying that we are only accountable for our own lives, that we are not accountable for the sins of our parents.
But, of course, this cuts both ways. We are not marked by the sins of our parents or grandparents, but we are also responsible for ourselves, no matter what example has been set for us. God tells us that He rejoices when we turn away from sin, because this is His Love returned to Him freely. That freedom is what makes it all so meaningful. God created each one of us completely free, even from our own past. We have freedom in each moment to love God or not, to turn toward God or turn away. That freedom comes with only one price: our personal responsibility.