Ezekiel sees the river of God’s mercy, flowing out of the temple, into the world. At first Ezekiel is trying to measure God’s mercy: 1000 cubits by ankle-deep, 1000 cubits by knee-deep, 1000 cubits by waist deep. Finally, Ezekiel can no longer measure God’s mercy. He can only swim in it.
Wherever this river goes, every living creature shall live. This seems sort of redundant, a tautology, but Jesus says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” Life is not just an on-off switch: on the one hand, a person can live, or on the other hand, a person can live abundantly. The trees bear fruit every month, and their leaves never fade. The trees are being watered by God’s mercy. Because of this water, their fruit is good for food and their leaves are good for medicine. These are amazing trees, or, rather, this water is amazing water. They are alive, and other living trees seem dead. We must discern: are we alive? We walk and talk, but are we alive? The wages of sin are death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. Are we earning death or accepting life?
If we want to be alive, if we want the water of God’s mercy, we have to be merciful. Being merciful means sharing the burden. Mercy comes after justice. It does not remove justice. Mercy does not allow injustice. Justice creates a burden and then mercy shares it. If someone is bad at their job, justice fires them, then mercy finds them a job they can do. If a person commits murder, justice sentences them to prison, then mercy visits them there. A beautiful image of mercy is a mother, who, seeing that her son’s room is a mess, tells him that he cannot go out to play until it is clean, and then helps him clean the room.
I meet many people in my work who are in difficult situations, and often it is amazing how many poor choices they have made that have led to their situation. We could judge them: "We have worked hard; have they?" But, thanks be to God, we have no call to judge the vast majority of the world. When we see someone suffering under a burden, all we have to do is share in it. When we choose to be merciful, we share in their poverty and allow them to share in our riches. That way, God, who has already shared in our poverty, will allow us to share in his riches.