“As for you, people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Go and serve your idols, every one of you! But afterward you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols. For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord, there in the land all the people of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts, along with all your holy sacrifices.
Words of Hope
I have heard it said that the lessons we teach the next generation prepare them for the world as we know it, but in truth, that world does not exist anymore. Yet, we read the words of the Prophet Ezekiel who lived around 600 years before the birth of Jesus and say, “these words were written for all generations” because they are in the Bible. How can both statements be true?
Ezekiel’s words were the words of a priest and prophet, living in exile in a foreign land where his people’s captors worshipped idols and through whose influence Ezekiel’s people were captivated by the same idol worship. Who could blame them? They had been defeated, stripped of their tradition, and in their minds, abandoned by their God. Maybe the Babylonians had a better worship system after all. Why not give it a try? In his frustration, Ezekiel throws up his hands and says, “Go ahead. Do what you will. See how that works out for you.” After all, their world was not his world.
These were technically the words of one man, but traditionally the words of God since Prophets were said to be God’s voice on earth and this was not the Sovereign Lord’s first time at the Babylonian rodeo. The Hebrew Scriptures depicted the same cycle in every generation since Sarah and Abraham gave birth to the most dysfunctional family imaginable, destined to worship God, fall away, worship idols, repent, undergo self-inflicted punishment, worship God again and repeat the same story with a new cast.
What have we, in this new generation, learned from the ancient’s mistakes? Not much it would seem, because we still expect the next generation to repeat our same mistakes but expecting a better result and finally becoming frustrated because our old ideas just don’t work in their new world. Yet God, through Ezekiel, still retained the optimism that there was hope for the next generation; that their sacrifices would be holy again and judging from history, this was often true. The proof is that we are still here and still puzzling over these 2600-year-old words that often challenge, but always instruct us.
How will the next generation serve the Lord? An advantage our world has that Ezekiel’s did not is the example of Jesus, his life and teachings, that introduced a new world that is common to all generations. The best lessons that we can teach our children? Make your world the best it can be. In your own way and in your own time, look to the teachings of Jesus. You’ll know what to do.
As we serve others in the ways that Jesus served, may we always be assured that God is always waiting to bless us for our holy sacrifices.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare