Picture: Ezekiel’s vision, Walters Manuscript W.51, fol. 339v – Vulgate Bible. https://www.flickr.com/photos/medmss/8738345467/in/photolist-ejbiEK-gZnih7/
MASS FOR THOSE TAKING THE BAR EXAM:
There will be a special Mass for those taking the Bar exam July 24-25 at 7:00PM on Sunday July 22nd. We will bless those who will be taking the exam and have a brief reception for them after Mass. Please come and offer your prayers and show them fellowship.
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
If any of those young men recently ordained to the Priesthood for our Diocese were to say that he became a priest because he thought it a good career choice, we would be justifiably shocked. We expect a priest to have a vocation, which literally means a call from God. A priestly vocation would have been somewhat bewildering to the Jews; the priesthood was inherited. You were a priest if your father was a priest. They did however understand vocation and call. True prophets were called, and we have the vocation stories of many of them. They are all of interest, but none is more fascinating than Ezekiel.
Ezekiel was a priest, He was born and spent his early years in Jerusalem. When Jerusalem rebelled against Babylon and was conquered in 597BC he was one of the leaders that was deported to Babylon. As a person with education he would have been useful to his captors in their bureaucracy, but as a priest without a temple his religious purpose was seemingly over. Yet
2 On the fifth day of the month, the fifth year, that is, of King Jehoiachin’s exile,
3 the word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar.—There the hand of the LORD came upon me. (Eze 1:2-5)
He receives a blinding vision of the throne room of God. It is very detailed and may or may not have definite references to his time. That is not particularly important. The very majesty of it is a sign that the God of his Fathers is no local deity but can reach them in the very stronghold of Babylon. His covenant with his people still endures and indeed will strengthen.
For the people the convent with God would have required sacrifice in the temple; without it, how could they maintain this relationship. All would be confused, and many would have despaired and would worship the Gods of Babylon. The section that we read today comes immediately after this long vision of the majesty of God. Ezekiel receives his orders.
2 As he spoke to me, spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say to me: Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have revolted against me to this very day.
As Ezekiel will tell his people repeatedly and unsparingly they are in this situation because they refused to accept the leadership of God and thus rebelled against him. Many verses of this book review with the people the events that led to this disaster and what they mean, God tells him that for this he should not expect to be well received but
whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
A prophet reveals the presence of God both in judgement and mercy. He is not bound by time or place but speaks God’s word and that alone to the people.
This is brought out very powerfully in the section of Ezekiel which follows our reading today:
8 As for you, son of man, obey me when I speak to you: be not rebellious like this house of rebellion, but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.
9 It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me, in which was a written scroll
10 which he unrolled before me. It was covered with writing front and back, and written on it was: Lamentation and wailing and woe! (2:8-10) Son of man, he then said to me, feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you. I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. (3:3)
The prophet does not speak for himself but for God. It may be a difficult message to hear but as it is from God it is “sweet as honey” to speak.
Although Ezekiel died before the people were offered a way back to Jerusalem he assured them in the name of God that they would return and rebuild the temple. Although the task was difficult and dangerous enough accepted that the temple was rebuilt and its worship restored. There truly was a prophet among them
Certainly, people of my generation (Sexagenarians and above)) may feel like “strangers in a strange land”. (Exodus 2:22) The world has changed and we may feel lost when what made sense before no longer does for us much less for younger people. But God never abandons his people: there are prophets among us. As we read though the prophets of the Jews this summer, I hope that we will be able to recognize them and hear them more clearly.
Let us take one hint from today’s first reading for perilous and divided times. The prophets will often start by examining the faults of “the nations,” that is other people. But invariably they will raise to crystal clarity the sins of God’s own people. It will be the same with us. Whether you wish to “Make America Great again” or have joined the “resistance”, to use the most hyperbolic language of the day, you will not hear the voice of a prophet addressed to someone else. You will hear only the Word spoken to you. Prophets are not sent to them but to us, not to me but to you.