by Father Mike Stubbs
If someone calls us enthusiastic, we most often would take that as a compliment.
However, originally the term was employed as an insult. Anglicans in England labeled the newly formed Methodists as such. It meant “showing extravagant religious emotion.”
For the prim and proper Anglicans, the Methodists were showing a deplorable lack of decorum. Literally, the word “enthusiastic” derives from the Greek, meaning “filled with God.”
In a sense, though, that is the idea behind Sunday’s first reading, Ez 37:12-14. God promises to give the people of Israel new life: “I will put my spirit in you that you may live.” They will be filled with God.
Those words echo the second creation account: “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (Gn 2:7).
This creation of the first human being in the Book of Genesis inspires this metaphor in the Book of Ezekiel to describe a spiritual awakening.
Here, the resuscitation of the dead does not refer to the physical resurrection of individuals after their death, as we might tend to think.
Rather, it means a change of heart, which will transform the entire people of Israel. No longer will they remain dispirited and depressed because of their defeat as a nation, because of their exile in Babylon. Instead, they will become animated, energetic and enthusiastic. They will have new life.
This change in the people of Israel will come about not because of any pep talk that God has given.
Neither will it require a change in personality. They will not all become extroverts.
Rather, this change of heart will result from the firm hope that they will experience on hearing the promise that God has made them: to “bring you back to the land of Israel.”
Similarly, God promises: “I will settle you upon your land.”
In fulfilling this promise, God will make clear to the people of Israel his true identity: “You shall know that I am the Lord.”
They will recognize God’s power and sovereignty in accomplishing this.
They will also recognize God’s compassion and care for the people of Israel.
Even though the original circumstances surrounding this prophecy of Ezekiel have disappeared, these powerful words can still give us new life. God’s promise to breathe the spirit into us can inspire us with hope.
Those words reveal God’s compassion and care for us as well.