Breaking Open the Word: Ezekiel 16
Sunday, February 17th, 2019: Ezekiel Chapter 16
Welcome back to our Scripture sharing series! Some of the Sisters are currently listening to Dr. Brant Pitre’s course Jesus the Bridegroom, so we’ve decided to focus our prayer and sharing on some of the scripture texts explored in this study.
Our first passage was Ezekiel 16, an extended metaphor of Israel’s relationship to her Divine Bridegroom. The first section of the allegory tells of how God found Jerusalem, an abandoned baby girl, and nurtured her, eventually taking her as His own bride. Among the various adornments He bestows on her are “gold and silver . . . fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth,” and for the wedding feast He provides “fine flour, honey, and oil.” (Ez. 16:13) As Dr. Pitre points out, all these elements are present in the Jewish Temple worship; not coincidentally, they are also found in the liturgy and Sacraments of the Church! This underscores the fact that the Divine Bridegroom is primarily united to His bride through the sacred actions of the liturgy.
In the course of our discussion, one Sister brought out what could be called the central theme of the whole chapter, that everything that the bride has is a gift from the Bridegroom. Of herself, she is still the naked, helpless baby, possessing nothing of her own. Dr. Pitre made an interesting point in this regard. It is the Bridegroom, rather than the bride herself, who performs all the usual pre-nuptial rituals for His bride: washing, anointing, adorning. The significance of this is clear – of ourselves, we can offer nothing to God, but with Him we find everything we need. It is only the person who recognizes his or her utter poverty that can be filled with Divine grace and become a saint!
Of course, there is another side to this truth. Like Israel in the allegory, we can become “captivated by [our] own beauty.” (Ez. 16:15) When we forget or refuse to acknowledge that all we have is utter gift, then we fall quickly into idolatry, symbolized by adultery in the prophet’s allegory. We prize the gifts over the Giver, and we believe that we ourselves, rather than God, are the source of our own goodness. We use what we have received to help us commit sin, rather than to worship God. To some extent, all human beings have all been guilty of this kind of ingratitude – all but one. Our Lady, conceived without sin, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, never lost sight of her utter littleness, nor of the One Who was the Source of all her glories: “My spirit rejoices in God my savior, for He has looked with favor on my lowliness . . . He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:47-48, 52) It is this humility, above and beyond many graces she received, that makes Mary truly great.
But even if we fall into spiritual infidelity, this does not equal an automatic rejection by God. Rather, He seeks us out in astounding faithfulness: “I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you . . . that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Ez. 16:60,62) No sin is greater than God’s mercy. And even more amazingly, our sins may be transformed for the greater glory of God; they cause Him to manifest His greatest attribute, mercy, in a way that inspires the angels and saints with eternally new songs of praise and love.
We’re glad you’re joining us for our new Scripture sharing series on the theme of the Divine Bridegroom -- we hope to have you with us next week as we reflect on Hosea chapter 2!