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Vol. XII, October 2006

 

“ Draw near, you executioners of the city ” (Ez 9:1)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Ezekiel became after his great vision a faithful servant of the Lord. He confessed on two different occasions: “The Spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet; and I heard him speaking to me” (Ez 2:2; cf. 3:24). God asked from him different symbolic actions in order to instruct the people of Israel: “They shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them” (6:10). Then the prophet describes how the Lord, with the help of His angels, accomplished this; it is one event, worked out in five steps.  

1. He “took me by a lock of my head.”

The prophet begins: “The hand of the Lord GOD fell upon me… He put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem” (8:1-4).

a) The angel guided the prophet.

God took the prophet by a lock of his head. Such things God does normally through an angel. In other places we read about similar actions. For instance, in the book of Daniel it is written: “The angel of the Lord took hold of his (Habakuk’s) head and carried him off by the hair to Babylon” (NJB Dan 14:35 f). This was done so that through him the prophet Daniel may get something to eat. The angel was a bit more gentle with the deacon Philipp:“An angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is a desert road. And he rose and went.” But then, when he had fulfilled his mission and baptized the eunuch “the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more” (Acts 8:26-27,39). There is no doubt, that God directs the life of the prophets, and of us priests through the angels who stand in the service of the Lord.

b) The angel illumines the prophet.

There, God granted a vision to Ezekiel “ like the vision that I saw in the plain ”. Such graces are always transmitted by the holy angels, as theology tells us. God shares with His servants His plan. He did this earlier through His angels with Abraham (cf. Gen 18:17) and with His disciples in the New Testament: with St. Peter (cf. Acts 10 and 12), St. Paul (cf. Acts 16:9) and continues to do so today.

God’s light brings to the prophet the angelic clear-sightedness. It brings light into darkness. It counters lie with truth. God showed the abominations of His people to the prophet in the temple. There are two reasons for that: A servant of the Lord should always look at the people and at His mission from God’s point of view. God is the beginning and the final goal. There might also be a silent lesson in that life takes place before God, in His presence, no matter where we may live it. It could even be considered as liturgy, service of the Lord, because we live it before God and as answer to His Will. Therefore, everyone, but especially priests should take it to heart: We should live and serve with the help of the holy angels constantly in the presence of God.

2. The angels collaborate with us.

The guidance of the angels tells us that life should be focused in God, it should take its direction from Him and be constantly examined in view of Him.   

a) The clear view: for or against God.

Ezekiel sees through the grace of God four flashes of the evil life of Israel: (1) “Son of man, lift up your eyes now in the direction of the north… do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary?” (8:5-6). Then (2) God said to him, “dig in the wall” and “see the vile abominations that they are committing here,… in the dark, every man in his room of pictures” (v. 9-12). Further (3), “He brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord”, and “behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz” (v. 14), which is a deity of Babylon. Finally (4), God brought the prophet “into the inner court of the house of the Lord; and behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, … were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun” (v. 16). – God indicates the different directions and excludes no one. All seem to err in some way. One needs grace to distinguish evil from good, and angelic strength to handle such knowledge.

b) The holy angels are faithful servants of God.

What is the purpose of these visions? God explained it to Ezekiel: “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too slight a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence, and provoke Me further to anger?” (v. 17) “I will… call the executioners of the city… And lo, six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, every man with his weapon for slaughter in his hand” (9:1-2). They remind us again of “the destroyer” in Egypt (cf. Ex 12:23) and of the angel who smote Herod so that he died (cf. Acts 12:23). It indicates the day of Judgment, when God “will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather His elect from the four winds” (Mt 24:33), but also, they will “gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers and throw them into the furnace of fire” (Mt 13:41-42).  

c) “The gate is narrow - those who find it are few” (Mt 7:14).

With the executioners came “a man clothed in linen, with a writing case at his side… the Lord said to him, ‘Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it’.” – Some saw in the mark a prefiguration of the sign of the cross. Those shall be marked who suffer because of the offenses against God: “Blessed are those who mourn … Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Mt 5:4,6). They are the ones who forget themselves for God’s sake, who mark themselves with the cross of our Lord through a life according to His will and law, and by that follow Him (cf. Mt 16:24).

Having marked the just, God sent the “executioners of the city” with the order: “Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity… but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at My sanctuary.’ They began with the elders who were before the house… went forth, and smote in the city… and I was left alone…The prophet Ezekiel said: “I fell upon my face, and cried, ‘Ah Lord GOD! Wilt thou destroy all that remains of Israel in the outpouring of thy wrath upon Jerusalem?’” And while the prophet was there alone with God, in prayer and supplication, like the priests with their Liturgy of the Hours before the Tabernacle, “the man clothed in linen, with the writing case at his side, brought back word, saying, ‘I have done as thou didst command me’.” (9:1-11)

3. A Work in communion.

We might find an experience like this of Ezekiel in the diary of some priests today. God has chosen us, like him, “from among men” and “appointed [us] to act on behalf of men in relation to God” (Hb 5:1). We are aware of our call and mission.

a) When we are helpless, and do not know what else we could do, there is always one thing more we can do! We should go to the temple, before the tabernacle, and pray. We should talk to God, to Jesus the Good Shepherd, and ask for help, for mercy. Perhaps we will not be able or dare to offer solutions to God, but we can ask Him to take care of His flock, to send His angels out with the Cross, offering it to each and every one with the petition: Accept this sign of salvation in your life, that you may find mercy with God and eternal happiness.

The experience of Ezekiel may even tell us that we should not wait till we reach such a point. We should distrust ourselves always, and therefore should call upon the angels’ help right at the beginning, and not only right before God’s patience is over. They can multiply our words and give them stronger power. They can imprint them deeper into the souls. We should start every day by renewing our consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady and by consecrating to them all the souls that the bishop or superior has entrusted to us. Then we should renew our covenant with the holy angels, so that in union with them, we might work with humility and fortitude for the glory of God and the coming of His Kingdom (cf. our Consecration-prayer). We ask the holy angels to go before us and prepare the way, to keep away the enemy and to draw those nearer who the Lord called, etc.

b) The angels “are … all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation” (Hb 1:14)! But they wait till we call upon them. When Tobias looked “for a man” as companion and help, “and found Raphael, who was an angel,” he asked him: ‘Can you go with me to Rages in Media? Are you acquainted with that region?’ The angel replied, ‘I will go with you; I am familiar with the way…’ Then Tobias said to him, ‘Wait for me, and I shall tell my father’.” The angel replies: “Go, and do not delay’.” (Tob 5:4-8). The angels are anxious to help man, especially priests with their tremendous responsibilities! In almost all natural regards they are superior to us. They see clearer and capture the spirit of God’s intention. Their will does not waver away from God’s, no self will hinders their obedience. They do not know human respect or foolishness, but in every moment want to glorify and honor God and do His will. They give power to our words, and move the hearts of listeners, sharpen their conscience and awaken their good will . They merit our supplication; that we look up to them and imitate them. They wait for our petition, because they are our “fellow servant[s]” (Rev 19:10).

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood.

The present text is a testimony of the collaboration between angels and priests. We have to believe that they are waiting to be called by us. They direct all of us again and again back to the temple, the Will of God. They make us signs with the sign of our redemption, the Cross, out of gratitude and new hope, with contrition and submission to His will.

Seek to win souls for God, this is important, and for this we both should work together.

Fr. Titus Kieninger ORC