In a preview of the Easter Vigil reading many of you probably won’t hear, let’s look at that strange prophet Ezekiel. I confess I found this man intimidating. Fiery wheels in the sky. Eating sweet lemon scrolls. Cutting off his hair and doing weird symbolic things with it. Ezekiel is the kind of guy you don’t want to cross. But he has a tender moment in chapter 36, the last of the seven Easter Vigil Old Testament readings. It also appears in the Rite of Penance, number 125:
Thus says the LORD:
I will prove the holiness of my great name,
profaned among the nations,
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your (ancestors);
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
A person in sin is a person in exile. This exile was known to Ezekiel–this was the Big One: Babylon. Like his major prophet brothers (Isaiah and Jeremiah) Ezekiel offers us a “section” of consolation, which Scripture scholars identify as chapters 33 through 39. This passage lands in the middle of it.
Whatever idols to which we have succumbed, whatever wanderings we have indulged, God is prepared to receive us. Ezekiel points the way in this passage. It’s not a mistake this concludes the Old Testament readings of the Easter Vigil. We may think of Creation and Exodus as the cornerstones of the Liturgy of the Word. But in many ways, Ezekiel prepares the way for the Risen Christ. We are promised not only a new life in our homeland, but also a physical rejuvenation from stone to flesh. Not unlike the transformation from death to life.
Reconciliation offers the Christian a promise. Sacramental reconciliation offers a bit more: the presence of the real Christ. That presence is proof of the holiness …