Put your house in order. Usually when we are told to put our house in order, it is not good news. Something significant is about to come to an end. Such is the case with Hezekiah in the first reading. He is learning that he will die. And his reaction is understandable. He throws himself into prayer. He is distraught, and reminds God of the powerful relationship God has made with him.
If we were told to get our house in order, what would we focus on? For Hezekiah, it is his relationship with God. He reminds God of all that has happened. He reminds God of the many ways in which the grace of God has enable Hezekiah to do great things in the name of the Lord. I am not sure that I could be as gracious at such a time. I might be begging for healing, or wondering who I would leave my stuff too, or I might even be angry at God that such things were happening to me. Some might even panic, wondering for the first time about their destiny.
How is it there can be two such different reactions, panic and grace? Is it not because of God’s grace that Hezekiah is able to turn immediately to prayer? Is it not because of the many things Hezekiah has done, his habit of considering God that has made such a difference? After all, unlike his father Ahaz, who gave himself over to everything that was not of God, Hezekiah worked to make God a priority not only for himself personally, but also for the people he served as their king.
And so, when Hezekiah was confronted with this horrible news, he was able to think immediately of prayer because he had developed a habit of prayer. Aristotle said that when we repeatedly do something, we become that something. So, when we pray repeatedly we become a prayerful person. When we engage in acts of generosity repeatedly, we become generous. Repeated good actions become virtues, while repeated bad actions become vices. Both virtues and vices can define a person in terms of their becoming.
Who are you becoming? That is the question Hezekiah puts before us today. Do our repeated actions lead to virtue or vice? Are we becoming more the person God has created us to be, or are we becoming less and less of who we are created to be? And when it comes to virtue or vice, we are never simply standing still. We are either become more virtuous or we are becoming more filled with vice. There simply is not in between.
The good news in our relationship with God is the abundance of mercy God extends to us. Over and over again, seeking a new beginning and always seeing who we can become, God never gives up upon us. The starting point for reception of God’s mercy is simply to ask. Virtue or vice, sinner or saint, we all stand in need of the mercy of God. So ask.