We usually look to the gospels or other parts of the New Testament in our lectionary for wisdom day by day. The Old Testament readings don’t seem as relevant as the New; the words themselves– “old,” “new”– suggest that.
The Fathers of the Church, though, preached a lot from the Old Testament and reflected on it more often than we do. For one thing, they saw in the Old Testament an image of the church. We need to reflect on our poor church these days.
In today’s gospel reading (Matthew 19,23-30) Jesus says that the rich will find it hard to enter the kingdom of heaven. Who does he tell that to? To his disciples with Peter as their spokesman.
During his ministry Jesus was cautious about saying anything the Romans and those occupying Palestine might see as meant for them. He’s careful about social or political statements that could end his ministry quickly. Look what happened to John the Baptist.
The Prophet Ezechiel (Ez. 28,1-10) in our Old Testament reading today, however, isn’t afraid to criticize the rich and powerful of his time. Even as he faces the dark world of his own people, he inveighs against the Prince of Tyre, a small Phoenician kingdom entrenched along the Mediterranean Sea, where Lebanon is today. Smart traders and skillful politicians, they saw themselves as a model society for that part of the world.
Did the Jewish ruling class, in exile in Babylon, see Tyre as a model for rebuilding Jerusalem? Ezechiel sees too much of Tyre’s unjust ways and arrogance to buy into becoming a nation like them.
Even when your own world is dark, don’t lose your voice for criticizing social issues affecting others, Ezechiel seems to say. While you struggle with your own sins and failures, keep struggling to promote a just society throughout the world. God’s call is to work for its good.
In this “moral catastrophe” we’re in as a church today because of child abuse, I hope we and our episcopal leadership, facing our failures, won’t abandon other areas of social justice, like immigration and poverty.
Listen to Ezechiel.