August 13, 2012 - Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28
Psalm 148:1-2, 11-14
Matthew 17:22-27

Ezekiel is so careful. He is a theologically trained prophet. He sees something with the form of a human sitting on a throne, white gold from the waist up, like fire from the waist down, the throne supported by four living creatures that looked like human beings but had wings. A less careful theologian might have said “I saw the Lord on a throne held up by four angels”, but Ezekiel is too careful for that. All of his theological training comes together in this last line where he finally sums up what he saw: “Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

It cannot have been the Lord, because God is not visible. He has no body, so he cannot be seen. This must have been a likeness of the glory, a sort of self-portrait that God put together for Ezekiel’s benefit. Still, Ezekiel is not willing to be nailed down even there. What he described was merely his vision of that likeness, lest anyone suppose that Ezekiel meant this to be a definitive description. This realization of the transcendence of God was the result of 1500 years of formation from Abraham down to Ezekiel. The Lord is an eternal God who cannot be represented by any idol. He is “I am who am”, the God who simply exists before any universe or time or any other creation. Ezekiel may have seen white gold and fire, but he would laugh at you if you thought that this meant that God was made out of white gold and fire. Laugh or be very angry.

So God prepared this culture to be the very last that would think of God as merely a powerful human being. Then a man appears who knows all about a fish that swallowed a coin and will conveniently be near shore soon, and he says that he will be killed but that death will be unable to hold him down, and he claims to be God. If Jesus had appeared in any other culture, they would have readily believed in him, but they would have missed the point. The Greeks would have had no trouble with a god walking among them, but they would not have understood. It was because the Jews could not imagine that the transcendent God would become human that, when they believed that he had, they understood the incredible earth-changing significance of this fact.