Today’s first reading (8/13/18 – Monday of 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2) from Ezekiel provides what can be both a powerful and confusing image. It can be confusing to us because it relies on imagery unfamiliar to us but known to the Israelites as images of God. It can be a powerful image because it is a vision of God’s presence to Ezekiel in that moment.
One might want to ask why God choose to appear to Ezekiel at this particular place at this particular time. To answer this one must understand the setting. The Israelites had just been defeated by the Babylonians. Many of them, including Ezekiel, had been taken away in exile. Being held in exile in a foreign land would be bad for anyone. To add to their distress we should remember that for many religions in those days, the god(s) were considered local gods so if you moved from one land to another, your god did not go with you. Of course, we know that there is but one God and he is present everywhere. Nonetheless, this was disconcerting to the Israelites.
Ezekiel, as well as the other Israelites, needed to know that God was with them in exile. It was with this in mind that the Lord gives this vision to Ezekiel as a sign of God being present to them.
When the imagery is understood, this is a very powerful image of God’s presence. This would be an “epiphany” of the Lord. The word “epiphany” might remind us of the story of the magi coming to see baby Jesus, God lying in a manger. The word “epiphany” means a manifestation or appearance of the God. The Old Testament contains various epiphanies. There is the time when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3). There is the time (1 Kings 19:9-13) when God appears to Elijah not in the earthquake, or wind, or fire. God came that today in a “light silent sound,” a tiny whisper. That’s why it’s important for us to have quiet time in prayer, to know God’s presence in the silence.
I also think of the story of the great flood with Noah (Genesis 6-8). Think of how Noah and his family felt on the ark when all they could see was water. They might have wondered if they would ever see land again. Without land, they could run out of food. They could have been afraid. In the midst of that Moses sent out various birds from time to time to look for land. I can only imagine the relief they felt when the dove came back to them with an olive leaf. The flood wasn’t over yet but they knew God was present in that moment.
We might feel overwhelmed by what goes on in our lives. We might be afraid. We need to know God is present with us. We celebrate the Eucharist as a way of giving thanks to God but also as a way to for us to know God is present with us, first in his Word read at Mass, and then in the Eucharist. The Eucharist we receive is small host. It is small yet it is so much more. It is Jesus coming to us. It is Jesus giving us the bread of life to strengthen us in our lives.