Then little children were brought to Jesus, that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. Jesus then said, “Let the children be! Don’t hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble, like these children.” Jesus laid his hands on them and went away.
Today’s first reading, taken from Ezekiel, is a clear illustration that there is an overarching theological dynamics contained within the Bible, a dynamic which deploys itself across centuries. Here is how this works in the present case about personal responsibility.
During centuries before Ezekiel’s time, people thought in terms of collective responsibility. Each member of a given clan shared the honor or shame of his clan, his clan’s responsibility in good or bad actions. And so, it was considered normal that, for example, a whole city like Sodom be destroyed, even though it might contain a small minority of good people (Gen 18) or that a great-grand-son be punished for the sins of his great-grand-father (cf. Jer 31:29-31). But in today’s reading we are told that the regime of collective responsibility is no longer valid and is replaced by the regime of personal responsibility.
There are other examples in the Bible where we see an evolution in the inspired authors’ understanding of God’s will. This evolution is even more manifest in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5—7), where Jesus clearly annuls, corrects or radicalizes ways of thinking found in the Old Testament.
The Bible is a living book, not a dead letter.
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