- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

August 19, 2016

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO

20th Friday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 37: 1 – 14; Ps 107; Matthew 22: 34 – 40

The name “Ezekiel” means “whom God shall strengthen” and the meaning was the reality of his life. Ezekiel was strengthened, empowered by God to be very sensitive and responsive to God’s presence and His message. How often the reading from the prophet begins with “The Word of the Lord came to me.”

Today’s reading has  a different introduction: “The hand of the Lord came upon me” – clearly, for Ezekiel the presence of the Lord was most personal, like the touch of a hand and in this experience God reveals a message for His people – God is the Lord of life and faithful to His promises.

“The hand of the Lord came upon me” – this divine experience is not unique to Ezekiel since we, too, have experienced this most personal, gracious act of love. We would not be here celebrating this Eucharist nor trying to live as His son or daughter except for this grace – the touch of His hand, could we not say ‘a lingering touch.’

Ezekiel responded to this grace by his love for the Lord; obediently he proclaimed God’s message even though his life was threatened. Likewise, he showed his love for his own people by making known God’s word no matter how difficult even though many failed to listen and reacted with fury.

So it must be with us in our awareness and responsiveness. Because we have experienced and do experience God’s word to us, His hand upon us, we take to heart Jesus’ teaching: “You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

His words are not an invitation, rather a command. Therefore, before God we can never justify choosing not to love. To disdain another, to hate anyone, to disrespect another is to reject God’s hand, to decide not to listen. It is to worship another god – the god of my own creation. It is to be the dry bones Ezekiel saw; it is to be buried in a grave of one’s own choosing, a choice, a decision that is the height of sinful foolishness, an idolatry of self.

Whatever our name, we are men and women “whom God will strengthen” and faithfully does. With this divine strength we are empowered to love beyond our human ability that is why Blessed Guerric in the homily we heard at vigils can say to us, “…do not be fainthearted.”