Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time


MSF Picnic 2009

Son of man, did not the house of Israel, that rebellious house,
ask you what you were doing?
Tell them: Thus says the Lord God…

Ezekiel did not invent the prophetic gesture, but he mastered it. Ordinarily a prophet uses words, sometimes written words, to make his point. But Ezekiel could also act out his message like a mime, stirring curiosity and questions from onlookers. He was so good at it people sometimes regarded him more as an entertainer than a prophet.
With his mime in today’s reading, Ezekiel foretells the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the hasty retreat of its king. His prediction, however, was only partly right. The king was captured, blinded, bound and led into captivity. His point, of course, was not to make predictions but to warn the people of the consequences of their habitual sin.

Jesus also used prophetic gestures. His attack on the merchants and currency-changers in the temple was no more than a prophetic gesture, something like the 1960’s hippies who burned twenty dollar bills in the galleries over the New York Stock Exchange. Jesus’ demonstration had no impact on their commerce but was duly noted by the Temple authorities, the Herodians. Some scripture scholars think he was executed for that crime alone.
Jesus’ directing Peter to pay the temple tax with a coin found in a fish’s mouth was also a prophetic gesture, demonstrating the freedom of a child of God.
When a mob confronted him with a woman “caught in the very act of adultery,” he squatted in the middle of the street and began to scribble in the dust. We’re still wondering what he might have written, if anything, but his prophetic playfulness challenged their hypocritical seriousness.
More importantly, Jesus’ healings were prophetic gestures announcing the Kingdom of God. Where religion – Jewish or Christian -- attempts to control every thought, word and deed; and to suppress every impulse that might bear the taint of human frailty; Jesus’ healings demonstrate the lavish, superabundant mercy of God.
Finally, his passion, death and resurrection is the greatest prophetic gesture. Although it was a single incident that happened many centuries ago, we see in it a sacramental sign that reverberates like a bell into eternity.
Watching Jesus is our primary response to his ministry; minding our p’s and q’s is secondary. As we continue to enact the prophetic gestures he gave us – the sacraments and liturgy – we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith

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