A Reflection on Ezekiel 33:7-9 N.A.B.
By: Larry T
7 You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
8 If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he [the wicked man] shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.
9 But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.
- Ezekiel 33:7-9 N.A.B.
God called Ezekiel to the thankless and dangerous task of preaching to a society that had hardened their hearts against Him. It was a message that the people and their leaders didn’t want to hear; it called them back to God’s unchanged covenant. Old Testament prophets were usually met with misunderstanding, derision and rejection by the general populace and Ezekiel was not an exception.
We may not be biblical prophets, but we are anointed priests, prophets, and kings though baptism.
1241 The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop, signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who has become a Christian, that is, one “anointed” by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king. – Catechism of the Catholic Church
God calls all baptized Christians to the prophetic task of being mourners. In Matthew’s gospel the second beatitude is: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” What does that really mean? “The mourning of which the Lord speaks is nonconformity with evil; it is a way of resisting models of behavior that the individual is pressured to accept because ‘everyone does it.’ The world cannot tolerate this kind of resistance; it demands conformity. It considers this mourning to be an accusation directed against the numbing of consciences. And so it is. That is why those who mourn suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness.” says Pope Benedict XVI in his book Jesus of Nazareth.
God’s orders for Ezekiel were typically something like, “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations.” What are God’s orders for us? If we are to discern which models of behavior to resist we need a degree of wisdom.
The Serenity Prayer is the common name for a prayer authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971). The best-known form is:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Some things will never change. For example, when taking a shower, it is always going to be better if the shower curtain is on the inside of the bathtub instead of on the outside – that will never change. Countless people can try to convince us that the shower curtain should go on the outside of the bathtub, but we know better. So the ability to recognize when something can’t change in the face of a society that says it is can change is wisdom of a different sort. Today a seemingly large part of society is trying to convince us that God’s laws are changeable, but we know better.
Ezekiel fulfilled his prophetic mission by doggedly carrying out God’s instructions. One way that we can fulfill our prophetic calling is by refusing to cave into societal pressure to accept models of behavior that are clearly against God’s laws, and to live our lives as God’s people with the understanding that we too will sometimes be met with rejection and derision.