Cartoonists often depict a prophet as someone standing on a street corner wearing a huge sign saying, “The End is Near.” Of course, this humorous caricature of a very serious biblical message is hardly a laughing matter. In the Bible, prophetic “signs” are meant to be a bolt of lightning to stimulate greater personal moral consciousness. But it is true that some of these prophetic words and deeds provoke curiosity in order to teach more effectively.
Today, God tells Ezekiel to make sure people see him packing his suitcase as if for a long trip from which he will not return, namely exile in faraway Babylon! Then, in the evening, he is to dig a hole in the city wall and crawl through it while covering his face as he slips away in the night. If we had been Ezekiel’s neighbors, what would we have thought of his antics? Probably, good riddance!
But, next day, there he was again, ready to make crystal clear what his “sign” meant. As strange as his behavior seemed, its message was clear. Exile was in the cards for them, because fidelity to God had not been their religious priority. Ezekiel’s dramatic escapade meant that soon they would all be packing their bags. Well, they really would not have time to pack, since it involved forced deportation, not going on a pleasure cruise.
Ezekiel was the prophet of the Babylonian Exile who hammered away at the need to repent because “The End is Definitely Near.” No one was laughing on that day of judgment. It was all tears. Sadness often creates the most memorable lyrics with a message we all need to learn.
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat weeping, when we remembered Zion. For there our captors asked us for the words of a song;…Sing for us a song of Zion!’ But how could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?” (Ps 137:1-4).
Who are the genuine prophets among us? What word from God do they bring us? Do we listen attentively and respond? Dismissing them as a joke could be the worst mistake we ever made.
(Father Paul Zilonka, C.P. is a Member of the Passionist Preaching Team of St. Paul of the Cross Province).