God's Inspired Word
Homily for Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
I have often been asked why we should read parts of the Hebrew Scriptures that are filled with violence. Others wonder why so much of the Old Testament is filled with lamentations and sorrow. These comments are usually followed by someone saying that they would much rather read the Christian Scriptures or New Testament.
While it is true that much of the Old Testament is difficult to read, I usually answer these questions by citing a verse from St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” A second way of answering these questions is found in today’s reading from the Prophet Ezekiel. In a vision, God commanded Ezekiel to take and eat the scroll on which God’s words were written even though the words “lamentation and wailing and woe” were prominently displayed on them. When he did as God had commanded him, Ezekiel found that the scroll was as sweet as honey in his mouth. Although he doesn’t say so, it is clear that this sweetness was unexpected.
If nothing else, this episode from the life of Ezekiel attests to the validity of St. Paul’s sentiment about all Scripture. There is much to be learned from the Hebrew Scriptures, even from those passages which upset our sensibilities. For the past six weeks and continuing for the next two, we read from the Old Testament prophets. These men were sent to the people of Israel by God bringing with them God’s Word in the hopes of bringing these people to repentance. As we read them, we must remember what St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy; namely, that all Scripture is useful for correction and training in righteousness.
Our own time in history has been labeled by many as a consumer culture which praises the supersized. Louder, extreme, and expensive are powerful and effective marketing approaches that get us to believing that bigger is better. In contrast to that perspective, the message of the Scriptures, and in particular today’s Gospel reading, warned us against such thinking. If the prophets were among us today, this would surely be part of their message for us.
Some fifty-five years after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, we are still using the lectionary that came into being because of that council. It was the desire of the bishops of the world that we would be exposed to more of the Scriptures. By paying attention to them, especially to those which call us to growth, we can indeed learn the path to holiness. Jesus breaks open the inspired Word of God each time that we gather to break the bread of God.