by Father Mike Stubbs
Who is Ezekiel?
In Sunday’s first reading, Ez 2:2-5, he is addressed as “son of man.” That is roughly equivalent to someone saying in our own time and culture, “Hey, dude.” It is a generic term which means “human being.” In other words, Ezekiel is one of us. The phrase “son of man” has not yet acquired the meaning and weighty significance that it will later have in the Book of Daniel and, building upon its use in Daniel, that it will also have in the Christian Gospels when they apply it to Jesus, that of a powerful heavenly being.
The Lord is the one speaking to Ezekiel, who is consequently filled with the spirit. God gives Ezekiel the spirit of prophecy, and that changes his life.
Up until now, Ezekiel has functioned as a priest. Or, at least he had, until King Nebuchadnezzar carted him off from Jerusalem into exile in the year 597 B.C. As a prisoner in Babylonia, Ezekiel could no longer perform sacrifices or carry out other priestly duties in the Temple, which was in Jerusalem, or least was in Jerusalem until it was destroyed, along with the rest of the city. That tragic event took place in the year 587 B.C.
At any rate, Ezekiel’s identity had focused largely upon priesthood, until now. God was calling him to be a prophet.
God is speaking to Ezekiel. In turn, Ezekiel is called to speak out on God’s behalf. That is exactly what defines a prophet: a person who speaks on God’s behalf. The instruction that God gives Ezekiel underlines this aspect of his role as prophet: “But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God!”
In the Old Testament, there is a category of books made up of the sayings of the prophets. They are appropriately named the prophetic books. The Book of Ezekiel is a good example. We should remember that not all of the prophets had their sayings recorded. Not all of them ended up with a book of their own. The primary responsibility of the prophet was to speak, not to write.
At the same time, Ezekiel continues to speak to us through the book which bears his name. The written word echoes the message which he proclaimed long ago while in exile in Babylonia. Our own circumstances may differ widely from those of his original audience. We live in the wealthiest nation in the world, not in exile from our homeland. We live in the modern age, not in ancient times. But we also need to hear God speak. And that is why we listen to Ezekiel.