This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
MUSLIM GIRLS ROUND THE WORLD CONDEMN BOKO HARAM KIDNAPPING
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation[a] of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. 6 And you, O mortal, do not be afraid of them, and do not be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words, and do not be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house.
8 But you, son of man, hear what I say to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you. 9 I looked, and a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it. 10 He spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
3 He said to me, son of man, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. 3 He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.
Ezekiel is depicted as a priest who went into exile along with many Israelites in Babylon after a cataclysmic defeat of their armies. The court and the leading families were deported as slaves in 586 BCE. Ezekiel collected prophecies begin with a vision of God’s glory which outs him on his knees but he is commanded to his feet by the voice of God. (see yesterday’s blog).
Today’s passage gives Ezekiel’s version of what God said to him. Prophets, like shamans, were trained in a kind of listening and speaking which articulated the deepest intuitions of their people. The biblical prophets believed themselves called by God to receive his guidance for their people. This may have involved visionary experiences, but also demanded imagination, courage and eloquence. In this case the prophet’s calling means helping the people to understand why they are slaves in Babylon. It’ s neither an accident, nor is it simply the consequence of Babylonian expansion. It is because the people have rebelled against the goodness and justice of their God.
It was probably bad enough being an exile in Babylon, but to have a prophet telling you it was your own fault would hardly have improved it and might have led to murderous rage. It would pear that such considerations never bothered the prophets of Israel: they spoke the truth a s they understood it, regardless of consequences. No wonder the scroll is said to be full of lamentation and grief. But it’s sweet to the prophet because it’s the true word of God.
If we look for prophets today, we could learn from the biblical tradition that they will neither be popular nor honoured, because their messages will be counter-cultural, commending what many despise and criticising what many approve. They may articulate their message in any medium. I’ve known about some great
prophets in my lifetime: Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Simone Weil, Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Chico Mendes, Rachel Carson-I’m sure there are others. Some of them suffered or even died for their message. Others risked their livelihood and reputation. I find such people inspiring in spite of, or is it because of, their achievement being beyond me.