We usually look to the New Testament for wisdom day by day. The Old Testament readings in our lectionary don’t seem as relevant as the New; the words themselves– “Old,” “New”– suggest that. The Fathers of the Church, though, preached and reflected on the Old Testament a lot, more than we do. For one thing, they saw in the Old Testament their mission to be involved in the world of their day.
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, for example. In today’s gospel reading (Matthew 19,23-30) Jesus tells his disciples, with Peter as their head, that the rich will find it hard to enter the kingdom of heaven. He’s cautious about indicating who the rich are.
The Prophet Ezechiel (Ez. 28,1-10) in our Old Testament reading today, however, speaks out against the rich and powerful of his time by name. 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.
Ezechiel like so many of the prophets was a social critic. He’s warning the Jewish ruling class in exile in Babylon then about seeing Tyre as their model for rebuilding Jerusalem. He sees too much of Tyre’s unjust ways and arrogance to buy into becoming a nation like them.
In our own time and place, we shouldn’t lose our voice for criticizing social issues, prophets like Ezekiel seems to say. While we struggle with our own personal sins and failures, we need to keep promoting a just society throughout the world. God calls us to work for issues of social justice, like immigration and poverty, for example.
We need to listen to Ezekiel.