The Unconditional Love of God
Homily for Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
A few days ago, I spoke about how it was difficult to read some of the material contained in the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament. Today’s reading from the Prophet Ezekiel is one such reading. However, following the idea that all Scripture is useful for one reason or another, let us examine this reading to find the message that God is sending to all of us.
In this chapter, the Prophet Ezekiel represents both Jerusalem and Samaria as unwanted, abandoned sisters whom the Lord rescues and cares for. Today we read the part of this oracle in which the prophet depicts Jerusalem as a newborn female, abandoned and left to die, an accepted practice in antiquity for females, who were considered financial liabilities by their families. That the infant has no one, not even her mother, to tie off her umbilical cord, wash her clean, and wrap her in swaddling clothes emphasizes Jerusalem’s death-like isolation and accentuates the Lord’s gracious action on her behalf. When the daughter reaches the age of puberty, God says that he covered her body with the corner of his cloak, which was an ancient custom in claiming a woman for marriage. Many of the prophets compared the covenant relationship with Israel to the relationship of a man and woman joined in matrimony.
As the passage proceeds, the images of adultery and idolatry are interchanged. The prophet is accusing Jerusalem of forsaking God and worshiping the pagan idols. As an adulterous woman breaks her vows to her husband, Israel has broken its vows made through the covenant forged by Moses on Mount Sinai. Toward the end of the reading for today, God professes undying love for Israel and promises that the covenant between them will become an eternal covenant and that all their sins will be pardoned. We recognize that that promise was fulfilled in the person of Jesus and who formed a new covenant with us, the sign of which is the Eucharist which Jesus gave to his disciples and which, they in turn, passed on to us.
Indeed, even though the images that are proclaimed today from the Prophet Ezekiel might make us uneasy, it is clear that God keeps the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and never forsakes the people of Israel. Though they constantly strayed from God, Jesus has made God’s promise come to life in our lives. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we celebrate the miracle of God’s love for us.